A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Harry Potter" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
Harry eyed Dumbledore uncertainly.
“You want me to leave Hogwarts?” Surely he had misunderstood the headmaster’s words. They had only just returned to Hogwarts to begin their sixth year. Hermione had yet to even become fully bogged down in her class work and Ron and he were still showing up late to Transfiguration, having not yet decided on the quickest route from their class just before it.
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled brightly. “Not on a permanent level, Harry, no. But I’ve taken the liberty of speaking to your instructors to explain that you will be missing from their classes for most of next week.”
The aged wizard continued before Harry could form a coherent thought. “I’m sure it has not escaped your attention that we are, yet again, short one Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and I had hoped to remedy that, with your help, of course.”
Harry stared dumbfounded. Of course everyone had noticed the vacant seat at the table in the dining hall where that horrible Umbridge woman had sat the previous year before she had temporarily taken over the seat of Dumbledore himself, where Professor Moody had sat the year before that, and Professor Lupin the year before that, and so on until Harry had yet to have the same Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor for two years in a row. He and his friends had no choice in noticing the ethereal figure of Sir Nicholas in their Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom either. The patron ghost of Gryffindor had been quick to relay that he was merely filling in until a new teacher was procured. But why would Dumbledore send him away from the protection of Hogwarts when they both knew good and well that Voldemort had returned as strong as ever and was elbow deep in rallying his supporters again? Only a handful of Deatheaters had been apprehended in the Ministry of Magic the previous spring, Harry felt sure there were still lots more waiting around for Voldemort to sic on him.
“Well,” Harry said uncertainly, “alright then, I suppose…”
“If I felt that your safety was at risk on such a journey, I would not suggest your inclusion. The truth of the matter, Harry, is that not even I can provide the full compliment of protection we will all require in these darkening times.”
Dumbledore’s face lost some measure of its merriment. “You will accompany Professor Snape to Land’s End.” He continued on as if he had not noticed Harry’s sudden intake of breath at the mention of Snape’s name. “Once there, you will need to locate a woman by the name of Hydrangea Berryknots at number fifteen Hessington Way. Hand her this.”
Dumbledore’s hand delved deep into his robes and withdrew an envelope sealed with the Hogwarts’ insignia.
“I cannot imagine Hyde will be altogether pleased to discover Professor Snape on her front stoop and that is why I am asking you to accompany him. I am hopeful that together you will be able to convince Hyde to return to us here at Hogwarts. We require her help now more than ever.”
Harry’s stomach roiled with countless unspoken emotions. He had no desire to so much as look at Snape, much less spend the next several days solitarily in his company. Harry still blamed Snape for Sirius’ death regardless that Dumbledore had accepted responsibility for the entire situation coalescing as it had done. And although he had chanced to see those few glimpses into Snape’s unhappy past, although it had made Harry question the sort of by his father had been, Harry’s hatred of the potions master had not waned.
Ron and Hermione, who were taking an uncharacteristic holiday from their constant bickering, had given him nothing but sympathetic looks ever since he had told them about his conversation with Dumbledore. Harry found himself missing their usual arguments. At least the ruckus would give his mind something else to focus on rather than the horrid time he was sure to have with Professor Snape.
“Maybe Dumbledore really is off his rocker for wanting you and Snape to go together,” Ron muttered at dinner. “I mean, what’s he expect? You and Snape hate each other.”
Harry merely shrugged and turned his attention to his plate. He tried to ignore the look Hermione was directing his way. He didn’t want to think of the insights his friend was creating as to the reasons behind Dumbledore’s decision.
Hermione and Ron stood on the massive front steps, waving goodbye as Harry took his bed on the Knight Bus. He waved back and forced a smile, fearing his face held the same anxious expression as his friends’.
Snape had said nothing when Harry had met him late that evening at the school’s entrance to await the arrival of the Knight Bus. He had merely looked down at him with cold eyes before he raised his wand hand to summon their transportation. Through experience, Harry had learned that the less he said to Snape, the happier they both were and so he intended to pretend to be asleep for the duration of their trip to Land’s End.
“Look ‘e ‘ere, Ernie! Why, it’s ol’ Neville ag’in. ‘Ow’s ya been, ol’ boy?”
Harry nodded, hoping the conductor would accept his wordless response. Subconsciously, he smoothed the hair over the scar on his forehead. Even with his head ducked, he felt the weight of Snape’s disapproving scowl at the conductor’s odd greeting.
The bus jolted into motion and tore across the school grounds. Harry nearly slipped off his bed when the driver turned sharply to avoid the Whomping Willow that stood poised, limbs flailing, for their approach.
“’At one’s tricky,” Ernie said, jerking his thumb in the general direction of the tree. “Won’ move outta th’ way fer anythin’.”
Harry dared a quick glance at Snape but the Potions professor was reclining against his own bed, his eyes closed and he looked to be sound asleep. At least he could try to get some rest before they reached Land’s End, he decided. Especially if Snape was going to remain asleep and not torment him for the bus ride.
The bus deposited them on the edge of the town just as the sun was beginning to peer over the horizon. Land’s End was pretty in a cut-off-from-the-rest-of-the-Muggle-world sort of way. It reminded Harry of Hogsmeade, just in the negative. Where Hogsmeade was magical in nature, Land’s End was rustic. Hessington Way itself was a sleepy little cobbled road that wound between quiet white washed houses whose shutters were only beginning to be flung open to let in the first rays of bright morning sunlight.
In utter silence they found number fifteen and Harry scuffed his shoes on the gravel path that led to the front door of the little cottage. He felt in his pocket for the envelope Dumbledore had asked him to deliver and panicked for a moment when he thought he might have left it in his school robe. Relief flooded through him when he located the parchment in his pants pocket and he pulled it out to examine it one last time before summoning the owner of the cottage to their front door.
Professor Snape stood just behind him, quiet as the dead. Harry had been surprised to see Snape remove his wizard robes on the bus to reveal completely normal looking, if not still black, Muggle clothing. Even his hair had lost its perpetual greasy nature and lay long and lank on his shoulders. It gave Harry cause to wonder how Snape could have such an excellent grasp of appropriate Muggle clothing when so many in the wizarding world were clueless, as had been made painfully evident at the International Quidditch Cup.
Shaking the thoughts from his head, Harry rapped on the doorsill with his knuckles and waited for an answer. They waited several minutes to no avail and he knocked again. Only silence surrounded them and Harry glanced over his shoulder toward Professor Snape.
“Maybe she’s stepped out for the morning,” Harry suggested half-heartedly.
“Hyde is here, she is simply refusing to answer the door.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because she knows we are here,” Snape sneered.
Snape sounded so positive of himself that Harry found himself in a quandary. Should he continue to knock even though the door would probably not be answered, or should he step back and allow Snape to deal with the whole situation? Deciding to try one last time, Harry’s knuckles had not so much as brushed against the wood when an owl descended from above and dropped a small envelope to the brick stoop.
Harry watched the letter fall and cast a furtive glance at Snape before he reached down to pick it up. Turning it over, he discovered it was addressed to them both.
Harry Potter & Severus Snape
15 Hessington Way
He peeled the envelope open and unfolded the single sheet of paper that was inside.
Go away, please.
“Delwynderyn,” Snape called snappishly. The huge owl that had delivered Hydrangea’s letter to them alighted on a gate post near the front door and eyes Snape suspiciously. “Give him Dumbledore’s letter, Potter.”
Harry looked at the owl but he could see no bindings with witch to attach the letter.
“Just hold it out to him, Potter,” Snape barked. “Delwynderyn does not tolerate being fettered in any way.”
Harry held the note up, being wary of the bird’s sharp beak. The owl carefully snagged the letter in his talons and, in a great whoosh of spread wings, he ascended into the air above the cottage and disappeared form view.
They stood in silence and Harry felt a growing sense of unease as the seconds ticked by into minutes. Just as he had decided that their trip had been for naught, the cottage door swung open to reveal a woman glaring at them from the other side. Tall and slender, and quite definitely the loveliest woman Harry had ever chanced to rest eyes upon, her eyes swept over both of her visitors, pausing briefly at each of their faces before moving on again.
“Sev, you haven’t changed a bit,” she murmured, allowing a tiny smile to lighten her face. “But you, oh my how you’ve changed, Harry dear. The last time I saw you, you were still just a wee little thing.” Her smile brightened even more and she reached out to pull Harry into a tight embrace.
Harry slowly returned the hug, his eyes searching out Snape over the woman’s shoulder. Snape’s expression was frozen in disbelief but Harry was unsure if it was due to the outpouring of affection or if it was the fact that she had opened the door to them at all.
“Come along, Sev,” she called. Pulling Harry into the cottage, she returned her attention to him. “If you’ve come all this way you might as well come on inside. I was just about to sit down to a nice cuppa. Now you can join me.”
The tea was pleasantly hot after their stroll in the damp morning air and tasted vaguely of violets and Harry sipped it slowly as he peered at Hyde over the rim of his chipped teacup. Taking a moment to study her more closely than he had at the door, he mused that Hermione might one day look the same as the woman seated across from him; great waves of chestnut colored curls were swept up into a loose knot on the top of her head, large brown eyes seemed to take in everything around them and held more knowledge than any one person had a right to know, and their was an air of quiet, if not slightly impatient, pompousness in her bearing. He cast a sideways glance at Professor Snape just as Hyde chose to break their silence.
“To what do I owe the honor of your presence, Sev? Don’t tell me you were merely in the neighborhood and thought to pop in, the Knight Bus very rarely makes the trek this far west. There are no wizards or witches in these parts save me, and since I am no longer practicing…” She stared pointedly at Snape, her mouth drawn into a tight line.
“You’ve read the letter?” Snape’s tone was cold but there was also the barest hint of some hidden emotion Harry could not put a name to.
Harry silently noted the change in her attitude when she spoke to Snape as opposed to when she addressed him. To Snape she was cold and foreboding, but whenever her attention was drawn to Harry, she was warm and friendly. It was almost frightening to see the rapid change in her eyes and tone of voice.
Harry had only witnessed one other person switch so rapidly from pleasant conversation to scathing remarks and back again with such practiced ease. Mrs. Weasley, the day Ron and his brothers had rescued him from the Dursleys’, had been simultaneously furious with her children and delighted to see him. He wondered if it was simply a talent born from being a witch or if it was a learned habit.
“Dumbledore sends his regards, as I am certain you are already aware. Had I known the details of this excursion when Dumbledore first proposed it, I assure you, I would never have agreed to accompany young Potter.”
“You would have left the child to his journey with a less qualified companion? Does your schoolboy hatred of James still affect your behavior so severely, even after this many years? Or is it me you would wish to avoid?”
Snape met her eyes with icy resolve. “Avoiding you is no great feat, Hyde. I choose to live in the world of reality, it is you who turned your back on all the responsibilities you once purported to uphold so dearly. I did not flee Hogwarts in the midnight hour nor did I bewitch my students. I did not abandon those who cared most about me.” He sneered at the woman who lifted her chin in solemn defiance. “You’ve a real treat, Potter. You’re having tea with none other than the most knowledgeable and, without question, most talented professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts that Hogwarts ever had the pleasure to claim as its own.”
“I can’t say that I would agree with that assessment. After all, I failed at my most important task.” She swirled her tea cup idly, her eyes downcast.
“You succeeded where no other could. It was your own over-inflated ego that led you to believe you alone could stand between your friends and their enemies with any amount of success. What you were able to do was beyond anyone’s comprehension, even my own.” Snape’s eyes were unreadable in the shadow of his lank hair. “No one, not even your beloved Dumbledore, understood the cost of your sacrifice until you had fled into the night.”
She glared heatedly at Snape and pulled Dumbledore’s letter from her pocket. The seal had been broken and she unfolded the crumpled missive within, spreading it on the tabletop with delicate fingers that trembled ever so slightly. She glanced over the contents quickly and silently while Harry and Snape drained their cups and avoided one another’s eyes. Once she had finished, Harry watched her eyes dart to his arms but whatever it was she had thought to glimpse was covered over by his shirtsleeves.
“Yes, Hyde,” Snape remarked slowly. “He has returned. We have your old friend, Peter Pettigrew, to thank for that.”
“He was never a friend of mine,” she snapped. “I never understood why James, Sirius, and Remus put up with him tagging along after them like he did. Lily pitied him, in a way, but I just felt he had a hidden agenda.” She quirked an eyebrow. “I can’t say as I’m that surprised to discover his treachery. I’m only sorry I was right.”
“You knew my parents?” Harry interrupted, suddenly wanting to steer the conversation toward somewhat less sensitive matters.
“Ah, yes. How else would I know it was you on my doorstep?” she teased, her expression brightening. “We were all great friends once upon a time, even though they were in Gryffindor and I was a Ravenclaw, not to mention a full year younger. I even counted your Professor Snape among my friends once long ago.” She nodded her head toward the brooding man. “Not an easy task considering he was a Slytherin and I was a mudblood.”
She fell quiet, allowing the sunny kitchen to fill with a not wholly uncomfortable silence. After several minutes’ inner contemplation, she spoke again.
“You, lovie, are the very image of your dear parents. They were so happy when you came into their lives, they loved you so much. They would be very proud of you, were they here with us still.” She cut her eyes at Snape as if waiting for him to challenge her comment.
“Do you intend to give Dumbledore an answer or are you planning to keep us hostage in your kitchen for the rest of the week? I dare say, we would be almost as safe here as we would be in the Chamber of Secrets. The first place he is likely to look will be here.”
Hyde glared at the Potions professor for an extended time before she finally sighed deeply.
“When I walked away from the wizarding world, I didn’t do it lightly, Severus. I never had any intention of returning. I had already failed Lily and James, and after what happened to Frank and Alice… I never wanted the possibility of repeating that mistake.”
“But what of duty and responsibility? It was you who demanded we all do our share to bring him down from power.” Snape’s pale face seemed to darken as he angrily spat out the words.
“And it was you who was the first to betray us.”
Harry watched, wide-eyed, as the argument between Hyde and Snape came to a grinding halt. Neither said another word as Hyde rose from the table and piled the tea china into the sink. She seemed to be fighting a horde of inner demons when she turned to the garden door and pushed it open, her eyes trained on a distant tree. The unmistakable form of the owl he had dealt with on the front stoop swooped down from the tree and entered the cottage to alight on the back of the chair Hyde had just vacated.
Defeated, Hyde clucked to the giant owl softly. “Come along, Delwynderyn. It seems our self-imposed exile has come to a premature end.”
Diagon Alley was crowded when they arrived. Wizards and witches, decked out in a full spectrum of colors, hurried along the sidewalks, stopped to chat with friends, or window-shopped leisurely. It was Harry, Professor Snape and Hydrangea Berryknots who stood out like sore thumbs in their drab non-descript Muggle clothes.
Snape glared at the open street, his face an impenetrable mask of disapproval. He had said very little since their conversation over tea, disappearing into a back room of Hyde’s cottage while she had set about gathering what was left of her magical items. Before slipping away, he had seen to it that Delwynderyn was sent off to Professor Dumbledore with a slip of parchment clutched in his talons that would, doubtless, announce their impending arrival.
A wand had been recovered from the window it had held propped open and Hyde shoved it into her jeans pocket while spell books had been snagged out from under table legs but, in the end, she had opted to buy a new robe. Harry had been amused to discover her old one billowing like a scarlet banshee in the vegetable patch behind her home. The hem was frayed, the scarecrow’s crossbeam had poked through one shoulder, and the gold toned velvet border was mottled and threadbare. Even the matching pointed hat had been relegated to scarecrow duty, its tip unraveling and loose strings left to fly in the breeze.
“Let’s see,” Hyde mused solemnly. “Where to go first?”
“It would appear that you need… everything.”
“Don’t be cheeky.” She mirrored Snape’s expression as he glowered at her. “I think our first stop should be to the Leaky Caldron. My stomach could do with a bit of nourishment. What do you say? Are you hungry, dearie?” Hyde quirked a brow at Harry who still found himself to be nearly speechless in the presence of the odd pair he accompanied. He simply nodded and began to feel foolish that no words would produce themselves.
The trio had nearly reached the pub when a frail voice called out and stopped them dead in their tracks.
“Hydrangea Berryknots? Is that truly you, my girl?”
They turned in unison and Harry spied a little old woman with a widow’s hump wagging a cane in the air. He looked up at Hyde whose eyes seemed to light up with the small smile she directed at the woman. The elderly witch hurried through the dumbfounded crowd with a speed that surprised him. Murmurs rose around them as the woman tottered up to Hyde.
“Hydrangea Berryknots? It can’t be.”
“I thought she was dead.”
“If she’s come back out of hiding, it can’t be a good sign.”
“Keeping company with Harry Potter, and isn’t that Severus Snape? Wonder what’s about to rain down on our heads now.”
“Weren’t she the one that let it all happen to begin wit’?”
Snape’s head jerked toward whomever had uttered the hushed accusation, but the street around them was far too crowded to discern who had said what. Harry wondered at the flash of anger that had sparked in the potions master’s eyes.
“My dear, dear girl.” The ancient witch rested a gnarled hand on Hyde’s arm and squeezed it gently. “But it has been a while, has it not?”
“Madame Hoeffenfinch, how wonderful it is to see you again. Tell me, how have you been?”
“Quite adequate, my child.” The old woman’s sharp eyes flitted from Harry to Professor Snape.
Harry was growing increasingly more uncomfortable under such close inspection and he tried to smooth down his hair to better disguise his scar. He had not received so much attention since Hagrid had first taken him to the Leaky Caldron some years before.
“You are keeping odd company these days, Hydrangea.”
Hyde’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Oh? What makes you say that?”
“The good, the bad… the innocent,” Madame Hoeffenfinch’s eyes traveled from Hydrangea to Snape and finally came to rest momentarily on Harry. “Makes one wonder at the goings on of the world when such remarkable alliances are forged.” She shook her head and lightly tapped at Hyde’s arm with her cane. “Be good, my girl. Come round for a visit when you are able.”
Hyde, Harry, and Snape watched the witch disappear into the once again bustling street.
“That’s odd,” Hyde commented as she continued to stare after the ancient lady even after they had lost sight of her.
“What was odd?” Harry asked.
Hyde shrugged. “She’s a registered animangus. Usually she just flies away.”
Despite being in Professor Snape’s presence for the four days he was away from Hogwarts, Harry enjoyed the short holiday from his class work almost as much as he missed Ron and Hermione’s company. The mystery surrounding Hydrangea Berryknots had grown exponentially during their stay in the rooms above the pub and Harry was anxious to discuss with his friends the reasons that might lurk behind such a thing. Everyone Hyde met in Diagon Alley knew her name and they seemed either to admire her or loathe her, but stranger still was her relationship with Professor Snape.
They taunted one another endlessly but without any real malice. It seemed to Harry that their words were like the steps of an intricate dance from which they had merely taken an extended respite. Aside from the silent worry and constant vigilance of Hyde’s gaze when she thought she was unobserved, she and Professor Snape had appeared to fall into an easy, albeit confusing, companionship. They reminded him a great deal of Ron and Hermione.
It puzzled Harry. He had only known Dumbledore to have the last word in a confrontation with Snape, but the potions professor allowed Hyde the same privilege time and again. At times the woman even seemed to try to egg Snape into a full out row and her eyes glinted with an odd emotion when he would back down and fall to silence. It puzzled Harry greatly.
Late on their fourth night in their rented rooms, Harry heard a quiet discussion in the hallway outside his room. He slid from beneath the linens of his bed and padded softly across the room to press his ear to the door. His interest was not wrought of concern, Hyde had assured him that no one would be able to get within three hundred feet of him without her first knowing about it and there had been something about her determined tone that made Harry believe her without question. He was more intrigued by the fact that the soft voices were unmistakably those of Snape and Hyde.
“I would speak to you concerning our current predicament, Hydrangea.”
“It’s late, Sev. Must we dredge up all the muck of our pasts and presents at such an awful hour?”
“Hydrangea…” Snape sounded as if he wanted to continue.
“Fine then. Which predicament would you be referring to? That I’m returning to Hogwarts? That I once again beat you out as Defense against the Dark Arts master? That Voldemort is back and wants both you and Harry dead? That the last time I saw you I thought you had betrayed us all? That our child died because of my involvement with the Order? Our lives are far from simple things, Severus, and they become more complex with each passing hour.” Hyde’s breath hitched as her words drew to an end.
“What has passed between us cannot be undone.”
Harry leaned closer to the door, pressing his ear to the wood in hopes of hearing the quiet conversation better.
After a silence, Snape spoke again. “You abandoned the wizarding world some fifteen years ago, Hydrangea. In a decade and a half you have not uttered one spell or mixed even the simplest of potions. You were great once, the most knowledgeable student of protection against the dark arts. I wonder that you will be able to fall so easily into the roll again. Fifteen years is a long time.”
Hyde sighed. “Please, Severus. Let’s discuss this in the light of day. It’s been such a very long day and I’m tired. It’s been quite a trying week.”
Snape’s voice was cold when he replied. “Which part has been the most trying for you, Hydrangea? Coming face to face with the child of the very people whose deaths you single-handedly claim responsibility? Knowing that once you are at Hogwarts you will also find yourself in the company of Frank and Alice’s son, Neville? Another orphan for whom you feel responsible. Or perhaps it is the return to everything you have denied being a part of these last fifteen years. Or could the most trying aspect of this entire endeavor be your proximity to me?”
Hydrangea’s voice was whisper soft. “As you’ve said, it’s been fifteen years, Severus. Much can change in so long a time, and much can stay the same. We are both very different now, the world is different now.”
“And yet those things which should have changed the most have stayed miraculously the same.”
Hyde sounded slightly worried. “What do you mean?”
“Why did you keep it? Why not throw it away or sell it to the highest bidder? I daresay you would have had quite a few takers.”
Harry hears Hyde gasp softly.
“Give it here!” Hyde demanded. “You have no right, it’s mine!”
“Is it not customary for the bride to return dispose of the wedding ring once the marriage is over?”
“I never ended our marriage! I was angry and confused but I never stopped being in love.”
“At least not until you spoke to Lily.”
“Lily is the one who tried to convince me to talk to you. She couldn’t or wouldn’t believe that someone she knew would be involved with Voldemort. But she was wrong, there were dozens of his followers among our old classmates. She alone knew you had turned traitor against Voldemort although she couldn’t tell me at the time. I didn’t learn of her involvement until I handed in my resignation to Dumbledore.”
Hyde sighed. “But even when you were among the Deatheaters… even when we knew you had betrayed all we held dear… I always loved you. I’ve loved you ever since as well. That’s why I kept the ring. It reminded me of you when nothing else could.”
Harry climbed back into bed dumbfounded. Everything was beginning to make sense. Dumbledore had sent them to retrieve Hyde because she would be better able to protect them against Voldemort. Hyde and Snape’s odd familiarity came from what must have been an intense intimacy at one time. Even the expectation of Hyde’s displeasure to see Snape made sense.
Hydrangea and Snape were married. They had been at one time at least. Harry found it difficult to understand how anyone could bear to marry Professor Snape, much less claim to love him still. The thoughts whirled pell-mell through Harry’s brain. He needed to talk to Hermione and Ron. There was too much to comprehend, too much to absorb. He would have to act as if he had not overheard the conversation when he awoke the next morning, if he could go to sleep at all.
He lay in bed, staring at the curtains that closed him off from the rest of the room and tried to quiet his thoughts. Suddenly, he recalled his few occlumency lessons and worked to clear his mind. It took some doing, but he was at last able to push away the tumultuous thoughts and drift into a dreamless sleep. His last conscious thought was that he had indeed finally learned something useful from Professor Snape.
to be continued