Continuing Tales

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 6 of 27

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Hermione's parents owled back the next day, giving her their permission to stay on at Hogwarts until the term began. She and Harry were both pleased, and they quickly settled into such a comfortable routine that they were somewhat loath for all the students to return and interfere with it. After breakfast every morning, Hermione went to the library whilst Harry went to the Quidditch field. Often, as she had that first day, Hermione took her books out-of-doors, and soon both she and Harry were brown from their time in the sun. After lunch, they frequently walked with Hagrid back to his cabin and spent some time with him, sometimes assisting him with the creatures under his care and other times just sitting together and talking. They knew that many members of the staff were grieving with them over Ron's death, but Hagrid was a real friend and was more open with his sadness, comforting them and allowing them to comfort him in return. In the afternoons, Hermione played the role of the stern task mistress, bullying Harry into completing his summer assignments and, when those were done, working with him on learning more about wandless magic and beginning to teach him what he would need to know for the Animagus transformation. As a compromise, Harry insisted that they not study at all after dinner, and those hours were given over to long games of chess, since they were more equally matched than either of them had been with Ron, and simply talking. When the time came to turn in, Hermione went obediently to her room and Harry made his pallet on the floor, sleeping comfortably in front of the dwindling fire. He had moved his trunk down to the common-room and had begun to think of the space as his alone. Hermione teased him about how annoyed he would be when it was littered with chattering first and second-years.

"Were we ever that young?" Harry asked, staring at the chessboard as he pondered his next move.

"I'm afraid we were," she said with a grimace. "I, for one, was all buck teeth and bushy hair."

"And the worst kind of know-it-all," he added.

"Thanks loads." She wrinkled her nose at him. "So are you going to make a move?"

"If you'd be quiet for two seconds so I could concentrate."

"Pardon me, Mr Potter," she said, affecting a wounded tone, but then she subsided into silence and let him focus on the board.

They both looked up, startled, when they heard the portrait hole slide open. They really had gotten used to this being their own space, and since the morning Remus and Sirius had left two weeks ago, no one else had entered the common-room. Minerva McGonagall stepped through the opening, and the moment they saw her face they knew that something was very wrong.

"What is it?" Harry asked, standing up.

"You're needed in the hospital wing, Mr Potter," she said, her voice trembling slightly. "Immediately, please."

"Professor?" Harry reached automatically for Hermione's hand, and she clasped it tightly and began to lead him toward McGonagall.

"It's your godfather, Mr Potter."

Harry felt Hermione's hand tighten momentarily on his own, and he steeled his face lest it betray him completely by crumpling.

"What happened?" he asked, as they left the common-room and headed down the corridor at a fast clip.

"I'm not entirely sure," she managed. "Remus just brought him here. Madam Pomfrey is examining him now."

"It'll be all right, Harry," Hermione said softly. "You've seen the amazing things Madam Pomfrey can do."

Harry nodded and walked faster. By the time he reached the corridor to the hospital wing, he had left the women behind and broken into a run. He burst into the infirmary, panting for breath, and was rewarded with a glare from Poppy Pomfrey, which softened when she saw Harry's distraught face.

"Is he all right? Where is he? Why aren't you helping him?" The questions tumbled from Harry's mouth.

"What's the situation, Poppy?" Professor McGonagall asked, entering breathlessly with Hermione.

"I'm not sure," the nurse admitted. "He appears to have been…burned, but I've done everything I know to do for him, and nothing is helping. I think this may be…more Severus's area than mine. He's examining him now."

McGonagall's eyes closed for a moment as she realized the implications of what Madam Pomfrey had said.

"What does that mean?" Harry asked, looking from Pomfrey to McGonagall.

"I believe Madam Pomfrey is suggesting that your godfather has been poisoned," Professor McGonagall said, "and if it's nothing she is able to recognize and treat, then that means…"

"Dark Magic." Harry's voice was flat. "Can Snape help him?"

"We'll soon know," McGonagall said, for once too distracted to correct Harry's method of address.

"The Headmaster and Remus Lupin are in there with Severus," Madam Pomfrey said. "I'll ask Professor Dumbledore if Mr Potter is allowed to go in."

She slipped through the door and returned almost immediately to gesture Harry through. Hermione followed, despite not having received a specific invitation. They saw Sirius Black in a hospital bed with Remus on one side and Dumbledore and Snape on the other. Sirius's face and hands – all the exposed skin they could see – were a violent shade of shiny pink with weeping blisters, and his hair, normally smooth and silky flat against his head, had begun to frizz into brittle kinks.

"Sirius?" Harry said, approaching the bed cautiously. And then, to Dumbledore, "Can he hear me?"

"I'm not sure," Dumbledore said quietly. "He's been drifting in and out of consciousness. Poppy gave him everything she could for the pain, but it doesn't seem to be enough."

Harry reached out to touch his hand, and Snape called out, "Don't!"

"Why not? What is this? Is it contagious?"

A muscle twitched in Snape's jaw and for long seconds he didn't answer. "It's not contagious, but you can't touch him. He'll burn you."

"So you know what it is." Dumbledore looked at Severus Snape with probing eyes.


"Well then cure him!" Harry yelled. "Brew an antidote."

Remus Lupin had said nothing up to this point, but his eyes now focused on Severus Snape with their first glimmer of hope. "Severus, please," he said in a low voice. "Is there something you can do?"

"I can't," Snape said softly, and then, clearing his throat and forcing the strength back into his voice, he added, "There isn't time. The antidote takes a week – even if we could get our hands on everything we needed, which we probably couldn't. He won't…" he looked away from Harry, away from Remus, and focussed on the man on the bed. "He won't make it 'till morning." He glanced at Remus then. "I'm sorry."

Harry took a step backward, and Madam Pomfrey pushed a chair gently behind his knees. He fell into it, trying to process the fact that Sirius was actually dying right there in front of him. "What is it?" he asked, finally.

"An incendiary potion that was developed by the Death Eaters many years ago. It causes the body temperature to increase steadily from the outside in until the patient literally burns to death. He's already too hot to touch. Within a few hours he'll be in multiple organ failure."

Dumbledore bowed his head in obvious sorrow and the tears coursed unchecked down Remus Lupin's cheeks, but anger blazed in Harry's green eyes. "Did you do this?" he asked Snape, gesturing toward the bed.

Snape recoiled, obviously stunned. "Of course not," he snapped. "How dare you ask me such a thing?"

"I mean the potion," Harry said, standing up and approaching Snape. "Did you develop the potion that's killing my godfather?"

"No," Snape said coldly. "I did not. In fact, I thought I had destroyed it all in the days just after Voldemort's defeat. I did not expect to ever look on these particular symptoms again."

"I'm sorry," Harry sagged back into his chair and Hermione went and knelt beside him, reaching for his hand. "I'm sorry, Professor."

Snape nodded and looked again at the man in the bed. His enemy for so many years, there had been times when Snape might actually have wished for Black a death just such as this. But not now. Now he felt…fury at the senselessness of it. He had learned to tolerate Black but never to like him, and now it didn't matter. Despite his offensive qualities, the room was filled with people who loved Sirius Black – the godson who had so recently gotten the chance to know him, the friend who had loved him like a brother since childhood, and Dumbledore, who had watched him grow up and then guided him in the long battle against Voldemort. A dark night stretched ahead for them all.

"Snape." Sirius's voice rasped from the bed and Snape felt a jolt of surprise. Of all the people in the room, he would have expected his to be the last name on Black's lips. He shot a look at Dumbledore, who gave him a nod of reassurance, and then he cautiously approached the bed.

"I'm here, Black." Snape made sure to place himself in Black's field of vision, knowing that any movement would be torturously painful.

"My robes…coin…Harry." Sirius's voice was weak but his eyes bore into Snape's and they were clear, unclouded by delirium. Harry jumped from the chair at the sound of his name and went to stand at Snape's side. Dumbledore reached for the robes Madam Pomfrey had removed from the patient and began going through the pockets.

"Sirius," Harry choked out, and Sirius's eyes slid from Snape to his godson.

"Harry," he whispered. "So sorry."

Harry knelt down at the bedside, wishing he could take Sirius's hand. "You don't have anything to be sorry about."

"Can't…finish my job," Sirius said, and his voice was becoming weaker. "Snape," he said insistently. "Lily and James…what they would have wanted. Give Snape the coin."

"I have it right here, Sirius," Dumbledore said, approaching the bedside with a gold coin between his forefinger and thumb. "Do you want me to give it to Severus? Are you sure?"

"Yes," Sirius whispered. "Now. Do it now."

Snape looked utterly bewildered, but he held out his hand for the coin Dumbledore held, since Black so obviously wanted him to have it. He felt a strange tingling sensation in his palm followed by a warmth that spread through his hand and up his arm. He looked at Dumbledore in surprise. "What is it?" he asked.

"I believe that you've just been made Harry's godfather," Dumbledore said quietly, still looking at Sirius, who nodded briefly and then closed his eyes.

Harry stared at Snape, who clutched the coin in his hand and stared right back at him.

"Albus?" Snape said, and there was an edge of panic in his normally smooth voice.

"Perhaps that discussion should wait until later," Dumbledore answered, nodding at the bed. "We have more immediate concerns right now. Do you know of any way we can make him more comfortable?"

Snape nodded and reached for his wand and then cast an uneasy glance at Hermione. "Mr Potter, please escort Miss Granger to the antechamber."

"Why? What are you going to do to him?" Harry asked suspiciously.

Snape fixed him with a cold glare. "I am going to undress him, Mr Potter, and then I'm going to cast a hovering charm. Go."

"I'll go with you, Harry," Remus said gently, rising from his chair and placing an arm around Harry's shoulders to guide him out of the room.

To their surprise, Dumbledore rose and followed them, murmuring, "I think I'll leave you to it, Severus."


The small group sat quietly in the infirmary's antechamber, waiting for the end in a haze of grief. Minutes gave way to hours, and Remus kept an arm around Harry, supporting and drawing support. Harry leaned into the older man's embrace, feeling the soft cotton of Remus's summer robes beneath his cheek and finding some comfort in the spicy smell of his shaving potion. "He's the last of the Marauders," Harry thought. "He's barely middle-aged, and he's outlived all his friends – all thanks to Voldemort and the scum that bowed down to him."

And then he had to know. He looked at Dumbledore. "Who did this, sir? What happened?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "I'm still trying to piece it together. As I understand it, he was having dinner at the Leaky Cauldron, waiting for you, Remus – is that correct?"

Remus nodded. "We split up yesterday to cover more ground. He was tailing…well, it doesn't matter who, but we'd agreed to meet back at the Leaky Cauldron last night to exchange information. By the time I got there, he said he felt like he was getting a fever and suggested we get rooms for the night. We were on our way up the stairs when the pain got bad enough that he knew it wasn't just a fever. He was able to Apparate with me to the edge of the Forest, and then he lost consciousness."

"I'm going to find whoever did this," Harry promised.

"I have every hope that we will find the person or persons responsible," Dumbledore said, putting very slight emphasis on the word we, "and see them taken to Azkaban."

Harry's jaw clenched. "Sir, if I find them, they're not going to make it to Azkaban."

"Which is just one reason you're going to stay at Hogwarts, where you belong, and leave this to the Aurors," Snape said quietly from the doorway.

"Like hell I am," Harry said, standing up and shaking off Remus's calming hand. "You can't tell me what to do." He looked around the room. "None of you can. It's between terms. I'm not a student here right now and I'm not a prisoner. I'm Harry Potter and some son-of-a-bitch has killed my godfather. I want to know why, and I want that man dead."

"Harry," Remus said. "Think. Would Sirius want you spending years in Azkaban for casting an Unforgivable to avenge his death? I can assure you that he would not."

Hermione crossed over to Harry and put her arms around him. "Please, Harry," she pleaded. "I can't lose you, too. Please listen to them."

Her soft words succeeded where others had not, and he felt the tight knot of anger begin to relax a little. He clung to her and though he trembled, his body refused to cooperate and cry. It was more real somehow than Ron's death had been in the first hours, but his primary emotion was anger.

Remus sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Severus…?" His glance flickered to the open doorway.

"It's over."

Remus nodded, and Dumbledore reached over and gripped his arm. "I'm sorry, Remus…Harry. He was a fine man. We will find out who did this. "

Severus Snape fingered the coin Black had given him. It was simple enough, with a Gryffindor lion on one side and the initials HJP engraved on the other. It had obviously been charmed – the sensation when he first held it in his hand had told him that – and there could be no doubt that Black had really meant for him to have it. But why? Why him? Why not Lupin or Dumbledore? Black's words at the breakfast table came back to him suddenly – "not what do I want, or even what does Harry want, but what would Lily and James have wanted." He had used those same words tonight. "what Lily and James would have wanted." But why? He had hated James Potter, and the feelings had been mutual. He and Lily had been casual friends, yes, but she had been much closer to Lupin. He wondered what Lupin thought about Black's decision. He wondered what Potter thought. He knew what he thought. Though he didn't hate Harry with the same vehemence he had Harry's father, he certainly didn't like him either, and he had no interest in spending any time with him that wasn't specifically required by his teaching contract. Harry Potter was someone to be endured, not enjoyed, and even if that hadn't been the case, Severus Snape had no interest, no business, being anyone's godfather. The very suggestion was preposterous. He glanced at Dumbledore, wondering if he could simply hand Lupin the coin and pass the responsibility on to him. It would be the best solution for them all, he thought. The Headmaster shook his head, reading Snape's mind, as always.

"He chose you, Severus. I do not think it was a decision he made lightly."

Harry looked up. "Do I have a choice in this?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "Not really, Harry. Severus Snape is now your godfather. Your relationship with him is up to you – and him – but he will remain your godfather."

"So I just get passed from one person to another, just like that," Harry said coldly. "Well, I'm sick of it. I don't want him to be my godfather. I don't want anyone to be my godfather." He looked at Snape. "Destroy that stupid coin and leave me alone."

"Harry," Hermione said, glancing from him to Snape, whose face was arranged in its familiar cold mask.

"I mean it, Hermione," Harry stood up, shaking with fury, his words drenched in anger. "You leave me alone, too. I don't need you. I'm the most powerful wizard in the world, remember? I don't need anybody." He opened the door and looked at Snape again. "You're not my godfather. My godfather is in there – dead. All of you just leave me alone."

Remus made to go after him, but Dumbledore stopped him. "I think he needs a little time, Remus."

Remus nodded and looked at Hermione, whose eyes had filled with tears at Harry's words. "He didn't mean that, you know."

She nodded miserably. "I know."

Remus looked at Dumbledore. "Albus, I have some…arrangements to make. I'll try to be here for lunch tomorrow though. Please tell Harry I'll see him then."

"Certainly, Remus."

"Severus, thank you for your help tonight."

Snape nodded once and then held up the coin between two fingers. "Why?"

Remus answered thoughtfully. "I think he knew he didn't need to ask me, Severus. Harry already has my love and support and will never be without it as long as I live. Obviously, Sirius saw some…qualities in you that he thought would be helpful to Harry. You have proven repeatedly your dedication to keeping him safe, even if your methods have occasionally been other than I might have chosen."

Dumbledore spoke up. "Perhaps, Severus, as you and Harry become better acquainted, it will become apparent why Sirius made the choice he did."

Snape was aware of the broad hint in the Headmaster's words, but privately thought that they were all destined for enormous disappointment if they imagined for one minute that he was going to go home and start knitting little things just because Sirius Black had made a final disastrous decision in a life which had been – to be brutally frank – rife with such.


He tucked the coin in his pocket and determined that he and Harry Potter would remain what they had always been to one another. Mutual antipathy had worked quite nicely for them for years now, and there was no reason why a coin given to him by a dying madman should change that. He and Potter would not be getting "better acquainted." He was accustomed to following Albus's recommendations without question, but this lay far outside the boundaries of his indentured servitude. He had risked his life for Albus and had done so without question. He would not now pollute what was left of that life with Harry Potter.

He would not.

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 6 of 27

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