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Mette’s face contorted into a grimace of pain. Severus jerked his hand away. She
“I’m sorry!” Severus blurted out.
Mette sat up, breathing deeply, holding her head.
“I’m so, so sorry,” he repeated, cursing his lack off attention.
Anger scratched at the surface of his mind from underneath.
“It’s alright,” Mette said, taking another calming breath and
slowly shaking her head. “I’m okay. It wasn’t as bad as last time. You
pulled away real quick.” She opened her eyes and smiled crookedly.
“It’s easy to forget, isn’t it?”
“I understand now what you meant back then, after I found you in the
corridor. About people touching each o—” His mouth fell open.
“Wait!” he exclaimed and rushed into his bedroom. There, beside his
bed, lay the satchel he had brought back from his second visit to Stolberg. He
picked it up and brought it to Mette, who greeted him with a quizzical look.
“Open it,” he said, holding the satchel out to her. She untied
the cords and extracted two triangles made of thin black leather from the
satchel. One was about as big as her palm, the other was slightly longer. A
small loop was attached to the tip of the triangles and a bigger loop to a
corner at the base. The base itself was connected to a short, intricately
braided strap. Mette marvelled at the objects, running her fingers over the
material. A sudden look of understanding appeared on her face. She gave Severus
an excited glance, then slid the small loop over her ring finger and the larger
one over her thumb. Severus sat down next to her and clasped the strap around
her wrist. Mette smiled at the black triangle that now covered her palm.
“It’s so soft, I can barely feel it,” she said. She fastened the
other glove to Severus’ hand and interweaved her fingers with his. “You
made them.” It was a statement rather than a question.
She took his face in both her hands, intently looking at her gloved hand as
she did so. Nothing happened. She let out a delighted laugh before she kissed
“Can you forgive my blunder?” Severus asked.
“Are you kidding? Let’s try these out, shall we?” She wiggled the
fingers of her gloved hand.
While Severus, to a certain extent, let himself be swept along, he was
still nervous about having to take off his trousers. Mette, however, seemed to
be perfectly happy with what he could give her tonight.
Spring came and Severus finally felt like he had room to breathe. There had
been only minor articles about him in the Daily Prophet. Also, since the
press conference, Claire had settled down and stopped pestering him. She even
gave the two of them a friendly smile whenever she saw them.
While his guilt was still constantly gnawing on him, the sessions with
Xanimus helped him to increasingly accept it as a part of his life. By
acknowledging that it was there, he could give it space, stopping it from
turning around and around in his head. “Practice kindness towards
yourself,” Xanimus kept saying. “Whenever you realize you are
brooding on the past, pull yourself back and think about the present instead.
Counter every negative thought with a positive one.”
Severus heeded this advice as best he could. He had always assumed needing
help was a sign of weakness. Now, he started to realize that being able to
accept help was a strength.
The days got longer and warmer and Mette and Severus went for long hikes
together. He also took her into the Forbidden Forest to show her the Thestrals.
She couldn’t see them, but she could hear and feel them. Their mere presence
left a deep impression on her. Often, the two of them just sat by the lake
together after dinner, talking, or simply keeping each other company.
“Did you know the Ministry introduced two new holidays after the
war?” she asked him one evening.
“I did not. But I assume they are meant to celebrate our
“Yes.” Mette looked at her hands. “The second of May is
called Commemoration Day, in honour of those who died. It’s a day of reflection
and contemplation. There are no real lessons, The other teachers talk to the
students about the war and politics all day. Last year, I just sat with the
students and tried to learn a bit about British Wizarding History.
"And on the third of May, there’s a feast… and a ball.” She
started absent-mindedly plucking out leaves of grass. “It happens here, at
Hogwarts. This is where the battle was fought, after all, so I guess it makes
sense. It’s called the Feast of Life. There’s a ball.” She laughed
nervously. “What do you think about dancing, do you like it? You don’t
seem the type, but one never knows, right? I don’t want to assume
anything.” She was plucking at the grass more quickly now. “But I
guess you won’t want to be in a room full of people commemorating the battle,
seeing as you played a role in the whole thing. And there will be other people
coming to Hogwarts, maybe even Harry Potter. Although, he wasn’t there last
year, they say he’s had enough publicity and lives quite a withdrawn life right
now. I mean, I get it, he—”
“I’d like to go there with you,” Severus cut short the torrent of
words. “To the ball,” he clarified with a small smile. She finally
looked at him, a little red in the face, laughing. She wiped the leaves of
grass from her hands, leaned against his shoulder and put her arm around his
“That’s wonderful. Thank you.”
“And I do remember some basics of ballroom dancing.”
“Really?” she looked at him in surprise. “I’m
Severus’s heart made a little leap. He’d just had an idea.
His claim to remember how to dance had been exaggerated. His wish to go to
the ball with Mette hadn’t. With Xanimus’ help, he managed to find a Muggle VHS
tape explaining the basic steps of the most important dances. He practised a
little every day while Mette taught lessons. In spite of himself, he was
excited at the prospect of dancing with her, even in front of people. It was
time to brave the wizarding world at large.
For practice, he decided to go to Diagon Alley. None of the clothes in his
wardrobe were smart enough for a ball – he needed proper dress robes.
As he stepped out of the fireplace of the Leaky Cauldron, he was relieved
to find the bar empty. The morning sun was reflected off the cobblestones of
Diagon Alley, which was not busy, either. Nonetheless, he kept his head down,
his face hidden between curtains of hair, while he walked towards Madam
Malkin’s. Every now and then, he looked up to see if people were staring at
him. He thought he saw two witches whisper and look in his direction, but
nothing else happened.
The bell above the door in the robes shop tingled. He stepped inside.
“Coming!” a female voice sang. Severus stood in the middle of the
shop, looking around. The left side of the small room seemed to be entirely
devoted to Hogwarts robes. He saw some Quidditch uniforms as well. He turned
away. To his right, long racks held witches’ dress robes, sorted by colour. The
portion of the rack holding all shades of green was close to him. He thought he
saw something very closely resembling the dress that Claire had worn on
Valentine’s Day. Severus took a step closer. The robes on the rack jerked into
motion. The entire rainbow of garments slid past him, dresses briefly
fluttering on their hangers and turning before him to advertise themselves
before they flew up and retreated to the end of the ever-moving queue. Quickly,
Severus took a step back. The parade of robes came to a halt. From behind a
curtain at the back of the shop, a stout witch appeared, carrying a large, flat
box containing lots of little cylindrical items in different colours
“Good morning, what can I do for—” the box fell and spilled
spools of thread everywhere, which unravelled as they rolled away in all
directions. Madam Malkin stared at him, her eyes wide. She turned the slightest
bit, as if wanting to run away, but stayed rooted to the spot. Severus took out
his wand. She threw up her hands and took a step back. As he waved it, the
spools rolled themselves up and soared neatly back into the box, which came
flying into his hands. He stowed his wand and held the box out to her.
“I’d like to buy some dress robes,” he said.
Madam Malkin kept watching him through narrowed eyes as she stretched out
her arms and snatched the box from his hands “You are Severus Snape,”
she said. “What do you want?”
“To buy dress robes.”
She didn’t move.
He took a breath. “The things the Prophet wrote about me are
exaggerated. I have no desire to rise to power. I don’t know how I came back to
life. I just need to buy some dress robes.”
“So, you weren’t a Death Eater?”
“That was a very long time ago.”
“Oh, and that’s supposed to make it better?”
“No, of course not. I have deeply regretted it ever since.”
Madam Malkin threw up her arms in exasperation, upsetting the box of spools
yet again. “Harry Potter grew up an orphan and had to spend his youth
trying to escape the most dangerous wizard of all time, and you called that man
your Master! You think that your regret is enough to redeem you?”
She was almost yelling.
The bell tinkled again. Madam Malkin looked past him towards the door and
her face lit up for a split second, then she resumed glowering at him. Before
she could break into another tirade, however, a dreamy voice behind him said,
He turned and saw a young woman with waist-long hair so fair it was almost
“You came back,” she said matter-of-factly. She stepped forward
and took both his hands, scrutinizing his face for a moment. “How old are
He was too stunned to answer. She let go of his hands, saying, “You
were so brave. It must have been hard to look Voldemort in the eyes and not
lose yourself for so many years.” She looked past him and at the robes
lining the walls. Her face assumed a quizzical expression. “Are you buying
new clothes? I suppose you didn’t have any when you woke up. Were you
Luna Lovegood was stripping away every pretence. “Yes,” he heard
himself say. She nodded, although he hadn’t clarified which of her questions he
had answered. “I want to buy dress robes,” he added lamely.
“I’ll help you.” She drifted towards a rack with robes, ignorant
of Madam Malkin’s alarmed look. She quickly pulled out a few robes and said,
“Come to the mirror.” Not knowing what else to do, he obeyed. Luna
held a set of pale green robes on a clothes hanger in front of his chest. He
vigorously shook his head. Next were robes of a deep chocolate brown. They were
more to his liking, but Luna cast them aside decidedly. Finally, she held a set
of light-coloured robes before his chest. They were a dust grey with the merest
hint of purple. “This works. I know you prefer black, but these would look
really good on you. Put them on.”
Hesitatingly, he took the robes and went into a changing cubicle. While he
changed, he heard Luna chat to Madam Malkin. Apparently, Luna was also here to
buy clothes for the ball. When he stepped back out, the girl smiled and nodded.
Madam Malkin pressed her lips together, but then said, “I’ll need to take
them in for you. Step onto the pedestal.”
Before he did so, Severus looked into the mirror. Luna was right, the
colour of the robes did something to make his skin look less pale. It
“worked”, as she had put it. While Madam Malkin pinned the robes,
every now and then sticking a pin into his skin without apologizing or even
acknowledging it, Luna had waved her wand to arrest the rack’s movement. Now,
she wandered along the row of dresses, letting her hands glide over them. It
reminded him of how he had picked his wand using the magic it sent out. He
remembered Luna. She had been jarringly wacky as a student. But maybe she just
saw the world differently from other people. His face grew hot when he
remembered having witnessed others picking on her. He had never stopped them.
“I’m sorry,” he said loudly enough for her to look up. “I’m
sorry for looking away when you were teased. I should have done
She smiled vaguely. “That’s okay. I figured you had bigger things to
worry about. And you know, when you’re different from everyone else, it’s much
easier to find out who really is your friend. Then, there’s a good chance they
like you because of who you are, not in spite of it.”
Two days later, Minerva approached Severus and Mette at lunch and asked
them to her office. After they had sat down in front of her desk, the
Headmistress said, “I have analysed those patches you gave me. Or at
least, I have tried. They disintegrated soon after I cast my first revealing
spell. Their makers clearly wanted to make sure that their secret stays safe.
Luckily I had a very good idea who those makers— who the maker is.” The
Headmistress pressed her lips together and the shadow of an emotion crossed her
“My guess was correct. Severus, you might remember the Weasley
Severus nodded, frowning slightly.
“Fred Weasley gave his life during the Battle of Hogwarts,”
The battle. Severus was suddenly painfully aware that many students probably died
that night. A memory pushed itself into his mind. The night when he had
overheard the prophecy and told the Dark Lord about it was vivid before his
inner eye. Had the knowledge he had delivered to the Dark Lord made the second
Wizarding War possible? Were his actions the pivoting point of the war? So many
had died. And he had been instrumental to their deaths. The spiral of thoughts
turned ever faster around him, squeezing the air out of his lungs. He had
forgotten how to inhale. His arms and legs got stiff and tingled painfully. He
tried to move, but his body wouldn’t obey him.
Mette appeared before him, her mouth was moving but he could not hear her.
He was slipping away.
Something warm touched his cheeks and pulled him out of the spiral. Still
in shock, he heard rapid breathing and saw Mette’s face contort. She started
crying, sobbing quietly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Minerva jump up
but managed to say “Don’t!” warningly enough for her to not approach
them. He had been pulled out of one agony just to be tossed into another. He
wished there was something he could do to help Mette. He tried to calm his own
breathing, feeling stupid and useless. Seeing her hurt was painful. He knew
that she needed to go through all the emotions, but the wait was excruciating. I’m
doing this to her, he thought as he watched her trembling body.
Finally, Mette started to calm down. Severus exhaled, only now realizing he
had held his breath.
“Now,” Mette whispered. Severus closed his eyes and laid his
hands on hers. The world around them slowed and came to a halt. In the quiet
centre of it were he and Mette.
Eventually, Mette took her hands away. Severus jumped when Minerva’s voice
asked, “What are you two doing?” Mette returned to her seat and
quickly wiped her face on her sleeves. She proceeded to explain to Minerva
about her gift.
“Well, I must say!” the Headmistress uttered after Mette had
finished. “I assume this is the thing you mentioned you wanted to do
‘research about’ when you started here?” After a pause, she added,
“Are there any Seers in your family?”
“No. At first, I also thought it must have something to do with
Seeing. But Severus realized that it was actually a form of Legilimency.”
She smiled at him.
Minerva looked back and forth between the two young people, saying,
“It seems you have… bonded over this.” Although her tone was crisp,
Severus thought he saw the merest hint of a smile. “Will you be
alright?” she asked, addressing herself at both of them. When they nodded
in unison, she cleared her throat and said, “I suppose in that case, we
can continue with what we are here for.
"As I was saying, I assumed correctly that the patches were
manufactured by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The business started out as a
joke shop, and is still primarily one. However, they also carry a line of more
serious equipment that is currently being used by different departments of the
Ministry, mostly the Auror Office. I have inquired with George Weasley and he
confirmed that the patches are listening devices. He also assured me that their
line of espionage instruments is not on display and only a number of registered
Ministry officials are allowed to order them. Naturally, Claire Blanchard is
not among them.”
“Would you have liked her to be responsible?” Minerva asked
“No, no. I would simply like to know who has been listening in on
us!” She shuddered. “To think that someone put that thing on
“I have already turned the matter over to the Auror Office. They will
lead an investigation. However, with the patches gone, I cannot promise you
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