|phoenixfest (phoenixfest) wrote in phoenix_flies,|
@ 2007-11-08 14:59:00
|Entry tags:||fic: gen, fic: pg-13, fic: quill_lumos, prompt 32|
Fest Fic: A Twisted Mirror
Title: A Twisted Mirror
Rating: PG-13 - for bad language
Word Count: 5,718S
Disclaimer: I do not own anything Harry Potter, related nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. It all belongs to JK Rowling. Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., Warner Brothers and any other entity involved.
Summary: When Severus meets someone who shares his long cherished views about Harry Potter he finds that maybe he is not so certain about his opinions as he once thought he was.
Prompt: #32. Two men, both think that they know Harry Potter, both have reason to dislike him and have had problems dealing with him. You would have thought that Severus Snape and Vernon Dursley would get on well – but do they?
A/N: Written for Phoenix_Flies Festival on InsaneJournal. This story took me ages to write, I just could not feel happy with it. It is an episode that might, or might not have taken place during the Deathly Hallows and therefore does not have a resolution because that book does not allow a resolution to occur. However I only managed to complete it after writing this story. and pretending that this particular post is merely a prologue. If you want to ignore that story then A Twisted Mirror is fully compliant with DH and can be read as a one-shot. It is written entirely from Severus’ POV.
Thanks to Claudia for betaing and being your wonderful, supportive self.
The storm didn’t seem as though it would be letting up any time soon. The sky was a dark purple in places and heavy grey rain was beating at the previously parched soil, but Severus pressed on, he had to get there tonight. He only hoped it was not already too late.
The Death Eaters were almost certainly on their way, or they would be soon. Severus had to get to the safe house, warn them and make sure that the Order got the Dursleys to safety. If Voldemort captured Potter’s family, it was bound to affect him and knowing the Gryffindor impulses in which the boy indulged he would probably do something stupid and impetuous, like getting get himself caught. After all, wasn’t that his worst fault, his impetuosity? Even worse than his arrogance and his stupidity in many ways. Potter’s impetuosity got people hurt, it got them killed and more than enough people had died already in Severus’ opinion.
Of course, Severus had no guarantee that whoever was guarding the Dursleys would let him anywhere near them, he knew that he might have to do some serious hexing to get past the more stubborn of the Order guards to those who might be prepared to listen to him. Severus just hoped that someone would eventually listen to him. Luckily Severus was by far and away the best dueller in the Order. Not that he was in the Order anymore, instead he was a pariah and a traitor, firmly on the side of the Dark Lord, just as Dumbledore had planned. But he had to do this, warn them, even if they were reluctant, even if they hated him. Potter’s relatives made the boy vulnerable and the Dark Lord was desperate to get his hands on the Chosen One and what better way to do that than through his loving family?
The safe-house was in the middle of nowhere, ramshackle and overgrown. Severus wondered how Potter’s relatives were getting on, so far away from their normal lives. They were undoubtedly
very worried about their beloved nephew, not that Severus could reassure them. Like every one else he had no idea where the Golden Trio might be right now, he just hoped that they were safe.
At last he had reached the front door and he paused for just a second to take a deep breath and prepare himself for the next few minutes. He knew that he would face dislike, even hatred from his ex-colleagues. Severus was used to that, but that didn’t mean that he had to invite it. He silently cursed Albus yet again for making Severus kill him. He knocked at the door, two raps, stop, three raps, stop, one rap.
There was a shadow behind the glass so Severus whispered the words “Phoenix flies.”. That had been the pass-word, they had probably changed it by now, but he hoped that the fact that he knew it would at least make whoever was guarding the Dursleys at least listen to him.
The door opened.
“Severus!” Remus Lupin had opened the door and much to Severus’ surprise he simply sighed before saying, “you had better come in,”
“Is that it, Lupin?” Severus sneered, “you aren’t going to hex me?”
“Why would I do that, Severus? You are on our side are you not? I think that you had better come inside, it is still raining hard I see?”
Severus felt like the lumos had been taken out of his wand, he didn’t know how to react to Lupin’s lack of aggression. He had mentally prepared himself for battle and instead Lupin seemed completely unsurprised that Severus was here. Unfortunately there was no time to find out analyse Lupin’s reaction right now, Death Eaters were on their way and every second counted. So he said nothing at all, he merely followed Lupin into the cottage. It was pretty, but a bit of a mismatch. The old plasterwork and beams seemed incongruous after the cheap glass-fronted door.
“What’s happened? What’s wrong? Is everything okay with Harry?” As soon as the door closed behind them, Lupin had started his urgent questioning.
“The Dark Lord knows the location of this house.” Severus said, “I only found out about half an hour ago so I pleaded an emergency at the school and came as quickly as I could. But the Carrows and Yaxley are certainly on their way, they should be here momentarily.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of glass being shattered
“Or they could just be here already.” Lupin said, as he turned away from Severus and began running toward a scarred and battered door some way down the hall. “where are we going to take them?”
“Hogwarts, my rooms, they will never look there.” His words were almost drowned by a crash and the sound of wood splintering and cracking in another room.
“They won’t be able to cast magic until they get in here,” Lupin said, as he opened the door. “The wards are very strong! It’ll slow them down, but not for long I’d imagine.”
Severus followed quickly.
Harry’s Muggle family were in a small sitting room, their gazes were glazedly fixed on a television set. Most wizards would have no idea about what the strange box with its multitude of moving figures might be. But Severus knew what it was, his father had been a Muggle after all. He wondered who had managed to make it work in magical surroundings, but then filed that thought away for later as they were completely out of time to get the family away.
He could hear cursing in the other room. Magical booby traps had been set for anyone who tried to gain entry through any portal other than the door and the Death Eater’s would take several seconds to get through them, but Severus could not take the chance of being seen.
Severus had never seen Potter’s Muggle relatives - well apart from Petunia that was - at least, he had seen them in Potter’s memories, and had assumed them to be grossly distorted, but in real life they were even more malformed than they were in Potter’s mind. He was certain that he had never seen anyone as fat as the two men, or someone as skinny as Petunia seemed to have become.
But other than her excessive thinness, she looked just as he remembered her, and from the look in her eyes she remembered him too. She was as sallow and as ugly as ever. Severus felt a pang of regret that Lily, his beautiful Lily had died whilst this shrew like creature had survived. She hardly seemed to have changed, but Potter’s other relatives were the ones who shocked him most. They were monstrous. Before him sat an obese man with a walrus moustache and a furious glare, a boy who was - if anything - even fatter, with pale blond hair, small eyes and a florid complexion that made him look remarkably pink and pig-like.
Severus could see nothing of the small dark haired boy that he knew in any of these people who sat frozen in fear in front of him, Harry Potter could almost have been a changeling amongst this family
“You!” Petunia said as she rose to her feet. She had never been that attractive in Severus’ opinion, but she had not aged well, her faced was drawn, her features pinched, she looked worried, as well she might, Severus thought.
Whatever else she might have been about to say was cut off by Lupin’s words.
“Death Eaters have found us, we have to go, Now.
“We will have to Portkey,” he looked back to Severus to check that this was indeed the case, and at Severus’ tight nod continued. “A Portkey is a magical devise for travel, but it is perfectly safe, it will not hurt you.
“Quickly now, there is no time to lose!”
Dursley rose to his feet. He was absolutely grotesque, huge and florid of face, “wait just a minute..” he began.
“If we wait then you will be killed or captured,” Severus said curtly. Fortunately Petunia seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation unlike her sputtering husband.
“Vernon! There is no time, for that now, do as he says.” Petunia’s voice was shrill. Panicked, she grabbed hold of her son’s arm with the long sharp fingers of one hand, and then grabbed Severus’ with the other. “Get on with it Snape,” she hissed.
Severus looked at Lupin, “your quarters?” the werewolf confirmed.
Severus nodded and produced the Portkey that he had hastily created earlier. The Dursleys wrinkled their noses in disgust at the red and yellow striped sock that Severus produced for them to hold on to, but Lupin’s eyes met his again and the other man smiled sadly. The sock had been one of Albus’s, Severus had found it, stuffed in a drawer when he had taken over Albus’ office and couldn’t quite bring himself to throw it away.
Lupin directed everyone to place a finger on the sock and he and Severus also held tight to their charges, for extra security.
Severus hated Portkeying at the best of times but with an exceedingly fat boy, a grossly overweight man and Lily’s odious sister in tow it was worse than usual. He felt sick and dizzy and actually swayed for a moment or two when they arrived. The werewolf looked pale as well, but Petunia was shaking and the boy looked as if he might be sick. Dursley was paler than anyone, he was shaking and sweat was beaded on his forehead. Lupin held tight to Dursley’s meaty wrist, as if to steady him.
The second they appeared in Severus’ sitting-room, Lupin dropped the other man’s arm as if he had been burnt, as soon as he had regained his breath, which did not seem to take very long, considering the unusual experience he had just undergone, Dursley opened his mouth to say something. But whatever he might have said was lost as Lupin turned on him and hissed “Just shut up! You will do as you are told and you will not jeopardise your family, or us.”
Severus was astonished, if he had been surprised when Lupin had welcomed him into the safe house with no protest whatsoever, that surprise had nothing on what he felt now, the sheer astonishment that he felt when Lupin was rude to Harry Potter’s uncle. Lupin had never been rude to anyone, in Severus’ memory not ever, even when provoked.
Severus sneered at the Dursleys and pointed to the leather Chesterfield sofa that stood in front of the fireplace. “Sit.” He snarled.
The family took one look at Severus’ expression and did as they were told. Severus could not help smirking at their reaction, even Petunia was a bit scared of him it seemed, which suited Severus very well indeed.
“Don’t move.” he added. The boy squeaked, but other than that the family did not make another sound.
He jerked his head towards the study. “I need to talk to you Lupin.” The werewolf sighed but did as he was bidden and followed Severus into the other room.
Severus shut the door on the fearful faces of the Dursleys.
“They cannot stay here,” he said, bluntly, “you will have to make other arrangements, I can give you a couple of hours. But I need to stage something, so that the Dark Lord believes that I had to come here and not accompany the Carrows to the safe house, you will need to wait with them while I sort something out. Then you and I need to talk about what is going on.”
He swept up to his office. That was a joke! It would never be his office as far as Severus was concerned. It was Albus’ office, he felt like an interloper there, he still missed the other man with his infernal twinkle and his bloody sweets. There was no-one left now to care if Severus lived or died. Sighing deeply and trying to keep a rein on his emotions, he summoned a House-elf and instructed it to go and fetch Longbottom and Finnegan. He knew that they were up to something, they always were. But they would serve as the distraction he needed. That is if the Dark Lord should question the Carrows as to why Severus had returned to Hogwarts so precipitously rather than taking part in the torture of Potter’s Muggle relatives as he had been expected to do.
He pondered the problem of the remnants of Dumbledore’s army. They were always good for an excuse, if he needed to get back to the school. Monitoring their activities gave him a valid reason to be absent from whatever jollities Voldemort had planned, and it also gave him a chance to keep an eye on them and prevent them being over zealous in their support of Potter and thereby truly putting themselves in danger.
Part of him wanted to bang their heads together and scream at them for their stupidity. Did they not realise how much the Carrows wanted to hurt them? How hard he worked to keep them all safe? Another, bigger part wanted to tell them how much he admired them, for not giving in, for never, ever giving in. But that would not be in keeping with the role that Severus had to play. They hated him, these children, fiercely and openly and quite rightly in his opinion but their continued hatred only consolidated his position in the eyes of the Carrows and therefore the far more important opinion of Voldemort himself.
Ten minutes later two red face teenagers had detention with Filch for their latest transgression and he was on his way back to his quarters.
Severus found on his return that the Dursleys hadn’ t moved and neither had Lupin. He was standing by the fireplace.
He turned as Severus came in.
“My study Lupin, if you please.” Severus glowered at the Dursleys, “if you do not move and you do not displease me too much I will arrange for refreshments when I return. You do not want to know what I will do if you do displease me.” Petunia flushed and looked down at her lap, the boy squeaked again and Vernon Dursley flushed a deep brick red, but he held his tongue, for now at least.
As soon as the door closed again, he rounded on the werewolf. “Why didn’t you challenge me, Lupin?” He asked, “why did you let me in so easily, you could have been killed!”
Lupin sat in the winged chair beside the fireplace and looked at him steadily. “Because I know the truth, Severus.”
Severus narrowed his eyes, “and what truth is that?”
“That you are on our side, that you have always been on our side, that nothing will sway you from avenging Lily and nothing will make you follow He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named again.”
Severus sat down heavily in the twin of the chair that Lupin was perched upon, he felt like he had been hit with a bludger.
“How?” he asked, quietly. He couldn’t look at the other man, Merlin if he had slipped up somehow then they were all doomed.
“I’ve been following Harry, we have been keeping him under surveillance, at a distance of course.” Lupin gave a short laugh, “not that it is easy, he is remarkably resourceful and very elusive, James and Lily would have been so proud.” He stared into the distance, looking at something in the far distant past. Then he lifted his head at looked directly at Severus. “I saw the silver doe.”
“I knew how much you cared about Lily, and Merlin knows she told me often enough how much she cared about you. There were so many times that I should have defended you Severus, I should have said something to Sirius and James, I should have stopped them long ago. I am sorry for the past, for what we did, and I know that James was too. Sirius was different, twelve years in Azkaban for something that you didn’t do can have that effect, he never grew up, but I have.
“I have trusted and admired you for a long time. I didn’t believe it when Harry said that you had killed Albus. Oh I believed that Harry told the truth as he saw it, but Harry is a child, an impetuous child, who has been left far too much to his own devices, been neglected for too long. Therefore he does not always understand what he is seeing, understand certain nuances. Albus was already dying, I think it suited him and his plans to have your position consolidated. I think you killed him because he told you to.”
Severus couldn’t speak. He felt like he had been stripped bare by the werewolf, his throat felt like it had closed up.
Lupin knew?. He had just sat here in Severus’ study and casually apologised for the worst years of Severus’ life,
Finally he said, “Does anyone else know?”
“I told Arthur and Kingsley,” Lupin said quietly, “but no-one else. After all the trouble you and Albus went to, it would not be good to ‘give the game away’. But someone needed to know, for afterwards, when it’s over, to protect you, in case I don’t make it.”
Severus didn’t know what to say, he felt like someone had wrapped their hand around his heart and squeezed it, he couldn’t breathe.
“I….I,” he began. Lupin smiled at him, he reached over and patted Severus’ hand. “You deserve a future too, Severus, if it’s possible that any of us have a future that is.”
Lupin stood and walked to the fireplace, “I’ll Floo from here, if that’s alright with you? I really don’t want to see them again for a bit and I know that I had better get something sorted out for the Dursleys, though if something dreadful happened to Vernon and Petunia I can’t say that I would give a shit! Except of course, that it might bother Harry.”
Severus couldn’t help gasping and Lupin smiled again, somewhat wryly this time. “I’ll be back soon,” he said. He reached up to the mantelpiece and took down the pot that Severus kept for Floo power, threw a pinch into the fire and without another backward glance disappeared into the green flame. Severus wanted to call him back, make him explain, spend a little more time in his company, and when had he ever felt that way about the werewolf?
Since Albus died he hadn’t really had a civil conversation with anyone. He was used to being alone, but he had always had Albus before, had someone who didn’t hate him, and he had at least had the respect of his colleagues, Minerva, Filius. Since Albus had died they looked at him with such contempt, such hatred and he hadn’t liked to examine how much it had hurt. Sharp tears tingled at the corner of his eyes and his throat throbbed with regret and something else, something that he couldn’t identify. He had managed to stay impassive, through all those months alone, but Lupin’s casual regard, his warm respect had almost undone him.
It took several minutes for Severus to compose himself, before he could bring himself to face Potter’s family.
They were indeed, not how he’d pictured them. Oh he had seen glimpses of the in Potter’s memory, but he had never been that interested in the boy’s memories, those memories had unsettled him to a certain extent. He had known that the boy was spoiled and overindulged, he had had to be, it stood to reason, just like his odious father had been, Severus could not countenance anything else. But some of those memories, fragments of them hinted at a more disturbing childhood, a less than happy one and Severus had refused to think about that. So he had ignored what he had seen in Potter’s mind and gone back to his own imaginings, he’d been comfortable with those.
But now as he stood and returned to his sitting room he couldn’t help the odd image that came back to him without his bidding. Meaty fists raised in anger, a fierce dog, a carelessly wielded frying pan.
He shook his head to clear them away. Lupin’s surprising behaviour had unsettled him he decided, firmly tamping down the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm him and went to meet the Muggles.
It had been a very difficult evening and Severus had barely restrained himself from hexing Lily’s sister on more than one occasion. Her odious Muggle son was even worse. At least Petunia Dursley understood magic, she might have sneered and narrowed her eyes at everything, but at least she hadn’t gasped and flinched every time that Severus moved.
Because she was Lily’s sister, one of the few left that remembered Lily as he had, Severus had tried to be kind. He had kept the House-elves away, served tea himself and tried not to glower as much as he usually did. But the wretched boy had kept asking him about Potter! He seemed to be the only one of the three who was even bothered about whether the boy was alive or not.
“How is Harry? Is he safe? Have you seen him?” Of course he wasn’t safe! They were at war! And every time that Potter’s name was mentioned, the elder Dursleys flinched or gasped or scowled. Not that he could blame them, since that was how he felt every time the wretched boy’s name was usually mentioned. Worst, however, was Vernon Dursley who rather than trying to reassure and care for his family had spent the evening snapping and glaring at them and at Severus, whom the man seemed to have concluded was worse than the dirt beneath his feet.
Severus truly did not care about what the fat Muggle thought of him, but the man’s arrogance and stupidity were truly astonishing. He had complained about everything, from the Order to the accommodation, to Severus himself, seemingly unaware and uninterested in the fact that Severus could have killed him easily with a flick of his wand and a whispered spell.
But right now, everything was quiet. Petunia had taken the boy into Severus’ bedroom, he had been sobbing quietly for some time before that. He wanted his computer, he wanted his television, he wanted to go home. Mostly Severus had no sympathy with the boy’s tantrums, he should just be glad that he wasn’t being tortured, that he wasn’t dead come to that. But a small part of him, that part that Lupin had prised awake today, did feel a modicum of understanding.
The boy hadn’t asked to be brought here and exposed to all the paraphernalia, that any wizard would expect to find in a magical home. The moving photographs, the tomes of books with titles that would mean nothing to him, many of which he would not even be able to see properly. The large silver Sneakascope that Severus always kept close. The boy was someone else whose life had been ruined by a Potter. Petunia had almost seemed grateful when Severus had suggested that the boy might wish to lie down, but had insisted on accompanying him, presumably in case Severus had planned to harm him in some way with a four poster bed and a duvet.
So now it was just him and Dursley. The other man had been asleep for sometime. He was dozing in Severus’ favourite chair, snoring and snorting in his sleep. Severus thought that he was disgusting.
He had placed a silencing charm around the fat oaf and was currently trying to mark the abysmal attempt at essays which had been submitted by the seventh year Potions students. Severus had not planned to teach, but popping in on the occasional class allowed him to keep an eye on the children, and on what they were being taught.
A prickling feeling at the back of his neck told him that he was being stared at and he looked up to see Vernon Dursley, pale and shaking, trying to say something. He removed the charm without speaking.
“…ink you are doing! I won’t have this! I have nev…..”
“SHUT UP!” Severus hissed, something about his voice or his expression earning the man’s instant capitulation.
He took a deep breath, to calm himself, he could tell that this man hated magic almost as much as his own father had done. There was a lot of Tobias Snape in Vernon Dursley. Severus had watched him all evening, the way he dominated his family, bullied them, belittled them, the way he scowled at every mention of Harry’s name. Oh yes, it was all far too familiar to Severus.
“You don’t like him either, do you?” Dursley said. “You don’t want us here, anymore than we want to be at this freak school, with any of you bloody freaks!
“You’re the one he talked about sometimes, aren’t you? Begged me not to take his books away from him when he was with us, said that some teacher would punish him, he meant you, didn’t he? He was scared of you, not that I cared, you should treat him how he deserves, lazy little sod! Punish him as much as you like, however you like. As if I would allow him to look at any of those freakish books in my house, anyway, whatever you did to him he would have deserved.
Severus didn’t answer, but Dursley wasn’t looking at him anymore, he was staring at the fire, nursing the glass of whisky that Severus had given him.
“And now look at where we are, away from home and work and everything we know, stuck at this Godforsaken place and all because of him.
“When he was first dumped on our doorstep, I begged Petunia to get rid of him. I had a son, a child and a wife that I care about, we never needed him, never wanted him. But I tried, I tried for Tunie’s sake, because he was her sister’s child, ‘all she had left of Lily’, she said. But he kept doing these freak things, kept trying to get us to like him, as if we would. As if we ever could, as if anyone could come to that.
“When I married Tunie, I told her that I would take her away from that world, all that peculiar twisted stuff that Lily and James Potter got up to! I never thought that they would leave us with their little bastard to raise.”
Dursley was spitting out his words as if they were choking him, as if the very thought of Harry Potter made him feel sick.
Severus felt chilled. The words the man was using were too familiar, he had heard them too often, spoken about him with equal venom.
Freak…..little worm,….odious little shite,….always chasing after Petunia, trying to get her to like him, as if she could, as if anyone could…..shut him away,….out of sight,…..tried to forget him, as if we could,…….tried to beat it out of him,……never worked…. stubborn little bugger,…..fucking freak!
Severus sat there, frozen by those vicious musings, which even after all these years were so familiar and just as hurtful, they had been said about him so many times by his father, who hated him. But to hear them said about Harry Potter, with such hatred, such vitriol? To hear them said about the boy that Severus had always hated with such intense passion himself, when Severus had assumed that the boy had been worshiped by his family, just as his be-knighted father had been before him.
But Severus knew at last that he had been wrong.
He looked at Vernon Dursley, still hunched in the chair, nursing an empty glass against his chest as if it were a talisman. Dursley wasn’t looking at him, he was wrapped up in his own world. Severus was not a Master Occlumens for no reason. Dursley was easy to read, his mind easy to enter, like a warm knife cutting through butter. The man didn’t even seem to notice the intrusion; he just carried on berating Harry, with such bitter relish, as if that were his very favourite thing in all the world
The images that assailed him made Severus gasp in pain. Oh Merlin could it be true?
He saw a small boy, a very small boy, beaten and starved, locked in a small dark space, alone and in despair, crying for his mother, crying for Lily Potter, his misery was palpable.
Severus eyes filled with tears, so many of those images were interchangeable with memories of his own bleak childhood.
Dursley’s words assailed him like acid rain, slashing into him, tearing into his very being.
“Oh Harry! I should have known. I should have seen.” He whispered to himself far too quietly for the other man to hear.
Not that Dursley was listening anyway he was far too busy ranting on about Harry.
……..scrawny little runt. Marge always said we should have drowned him, I wish I had!
“Stop it! Stop it!” Severus said, his voice was tinged with hysteria. He was on his feet with his wand out ready to hex the man.
Dursley had gone white and was shaking with fear.
“Don’t!” he said, “Please don’t hurt me.”
For a moment neither of them moved. Severus was breathing hard, struggling to control himself.
This creature, this odious man was like Severus’ own father, worse, even crueller. The way he had treated a child, a magical child the way he had treated Harry Potter, Lily’s precious baby, Lily’s son.
Finally after struggling with himself for several seconds he lowered his wand. He knew now why Lupin had behaved the way he had towards these Muggles, Remus Lupin, who was never less than polite, never less than a gentleman.
“I would like to hex you Dursley,” Severus said in a dead voice, “I would love to make you suffer just a little of what you put that boy through, but I do not have the right.
“You are correct that Harry Potter hates me, as he should. I have treated him shamefully. But at least I know now what I have done. I could torture you till your eyes bled, until your voice was so destroyed that you would be unable to beg for the mercy that I would not show you. But my treatment of him has denied me such a privilege. I will have to leave that to someone else.”
Dursley didn’t speak again, he sat as still as if he had been Petrified, eyeing Severus nervously, but Severus couldn’t move either, his limbs felt like lead, like stone.
Looking at Dursley was like looking at his father, like looking at himself. He had done what he had always promised himself he would not do, he had become his father. Just like his father. It was like looking into a twisted mirror, one that revealed so much more than he had ever suspected to be true.
“I am so sorry Lily,” Severus whispered into the silent room, Dursley flinched
At last the fire flared into life and much to Severus’ relief Remus Lupin and Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped through. Dursley leapt to his feet again, rushing towards Kingsley. “Get me out of here!” he shouted, he’s mad, that one, totally mad!”
Kingsley turned to him, “please go and get your family Mr Dursley,” he said, “we will leave momentarily,”
“You’re that one that has been looking after the Prime Minister?” Dursley said in oily tones, at last we have someone halfway decent protecting us, your lot have seen sense at last.”
Kingsley smiled at him as if he had just spoken nothing but complete sense. “We’ll be going very soon, Mr Dursley, I am sure that Mrs Dursley would appreciate being allowed to freshen up, before we go.” Dursley beamed at him.
“Yes, yes, good idea,” he said, “I’ll tell Petunia.” He hurried off towards the bedroom, surprisingly quickly for a man of his bulk.
Severus turned to look at the Auror. Kingsley was smartly dressed in a Muggle suit and he looked like a smart, professional Muggle, just the sort of man who could be seen in any company, no wonder he had the job that he did. Kingsley smiled at Severus and held out his hand.
“Good to see you, Severus!” he said and his bright white smile seemed to light up the room. Once again Severus was speechless. Lupin had told him that Kingsley knew the truth, but Severus was still not expecting such a reception. It wasn’t a reaction he would have expected even when he was a member of the Order. And while earlier tonight he would have revelled in it, now just he wanted to run and hide. Severus had seen a side of himself that he had never wanted to examine before and he hadn’t liked it at all.
If James Potter had been a bully and a thug towards him, then how much worse had his behaviour been towards Harry? He wanted to cry, he wanted to find the boy and beg his forgiveness, but it was all too late wasn’t it? He had protected him even as he hated him and yet he could have done so much more.
“Take care of yourself, Severus.” Kingsley continued, looking deep into Severus’ eyes, “what you have done, what you are doing, is more valuable than I can say, and remember, you know how to find us, should you need to.”
He nodded at Kingsley, because he still couldn’t speak, his throat was stoppered with grief.
Then the Dursleys came back in, clutching each other, still deeply unnerved by their surroundings and Kingsley turned away. Lupin reached over and squeezed Severus’ shoulder. “Look after yourself Severus,” he said,
Severus nodded tightly.
“You too, Lupin,” he said, in a voice that was croaky and raw, “you too."
Five minutes later and they had gone, the room felt far even more empty than usual and Severus was alone again with nothing but his thoughts.