Continuing Tales

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 53 of 60

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Severus gave her a crooked smile. "Hello, Petunia," he said softly. It had been sixteen years since he had last seen her, and that had been the first time in years; he had still vaguely thought of her as the girl he had once known, but the woman in front of him was fast approaching middle age. The sour expression she had always reserved for him hadn't changed much, though; it made it hard to see her resemblance to her sister, which under the circumstances he was quite pleased about. This was a complicated enough situation as it was.

"What are you doing here?" she asked shakily. As well she might; he doubted she had ever expected to see him again. He certainly hadn't planned this.

"I've brought your nephew and his friends to visit." He sidestepped to let her see the three of them, and if possible she went even paler.


"Hello, Aunt Petunia," Potter said quietly, sounding rather uncomfortable. "Um. These are my friends, Ron and Hermione."

She stared for a moment before looking back at Severus. "What are you doing here?" she repeated in a hiss.

He sighed. "It's important, Petunia. You know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't absolutely necessary. I need to explain what's going on and I need to ask something of you. It won't take long. May we come in, or would you rather this discussion took place on your doorstep in full view of the street?"

That worked, as he had known it would; she backed up automatically to let them in and Weasley closed the door behind them. "Wait in the living room," she told them curtly, disappearing further down the hall, presumably to get Vernon and whatever they'd called their son out of the way, if they were home; somehow he doubted it was to make them all tea and biscuits.

"Well. This is going to be weird," Weasley observed softly, looking around. Severus ignored this, as he ignored Hermione's obvious curiosity; it was Potter's reaction they needed to worry about now. If he lost control of his temper again it would create a lot of problems. He watched the boy, who was so obviously not pleased to be back here that Severus could actually sympathise – it seemed similar to the way he felt about Spinner's End.

"Are you okay, Harry?" Hermione asked in an undertone, obviously having reached the same conclusion.

He shrugged uncomfortably, gave Severus a not very friendly look and turned away to find a seat. Severus accepted that philosophically; this would always have been a messy situation, under the circumstances. They could sort it out later.

A few minutes later Petunia walked back in with a furious expression that did nothing to conceal the fear in her eyes. The boys had taken the sofa, and Severus had taken one armchair, leaving the other for her; Hermione was sitting on the floor and leaning against his legs. That was a bad idea on so many levels, given Petunia's sharp eyes and spiteful mind and existing bad opinion of him, but Severus certainly had no intention of asking her to move.

Sitting opposite him and fussing unnecessarily with her skirt, Petunia said finally, "What's going on, Severus? We were supposed to be left out of... all that."

"And so you have been," he replied quietly. "But you know what's going on, Petunia. You know he's been back for years now. The war is in full swing as we speak."

"Are we in danger?"

"No. We won't be here long enough to draw attention. I need to ask you for something and I wanted to explain a little of what's been happening, because I imagine you will have been wondering." For all that I'm sure you've pretended not to care.

"How do you know Harry?" she asked slowly. She knew him well enough to guess something of how he felt every time he laid eyes on the boy, although he knew she didn't fully appreciate how much it hurt – nobody could.

Despite himself, Severus smiled a little. "I teach at Hogwarts. I used to, at least, until this summer."

"What's happened, then?"

"It's far too long a story to go into, but Hogwarts has closed. He has taken over the Ministry and he's not far from controlling the whole country."

"Oh, God."

"I doubt God has much to do with it," he heard Hermione mutter, and suppressed a smile, nudging her slightly with his knee. Leave the sarcasm to me, thank you.

"It's not as bad as it sounds. We know how he was able to come back and why he didn't die, and we are very close to undoing it. If we manage it, we'll be able to kill him. It's actually almost over."



He gave her a few moments to absorb this. It must have been a real shock for her; she had done her best to stay out of the magical world as much as possible. If it came to it, he wanted a few moments to gather himself too; this was a very weird situation. He and Petunia had never been friends; she had been jealous of him, and he of her in a way, and they had spent their childhoods mutually disliking one another before he had got her sister killed. Accidentally, yes, but still, it was hardly surprising that she hated him or that he was finding it difficult to relax.

"Is Dumbledore still in charge?" she asked after a while.

Severus bared his teeth in a grim parody of a smile. "No. He's dead." Hermione shifted at his feet and wrapped an arm around his calf, shivering a little and resting her head on his knee, and there was another long silence.

Potter broke the mood suddenly, somewhat surprisingly. "This is how you knew about Azkaban, isn't it?"

Everyone in the room looked at him blankly. "What do you mean?"

He stared at his aunt. "You said you knew about the Dementors because you'd overheard someone telling my mum. I thought you meant my dad, but – you meant him, didn't you? Professor Snape?"


Severus caught Petunia's eye for a moment. He remembered that conversation. He'd been telling Lily about why they wouldn't be allowed to use magic outside school once they started at Hogwarts, and Petunia had been eavesdropping again; she'd interrupted, and he'd accidentally brought a tree branch down almost on top of her, terrifying both of them and making Lily furious with him. He'd only been nine years old at the time. Nearly thirty years ago; he'd lived several lifetimes since then.

Potter laughed suddenly. "You called him 'that awful boy'."

Startled, Severus barked a laugh as she flushed. "That sounds about right," he agreed, as Hermione turned her head and smiled up at him in amusement.

"Well, you were," Petunia said defensively.

"True," he agreed ruefully, remembering that small, scruffy, ill-spoken street brat he had once been. That part of him was still there, somewhere below the surface; it was the part of him that had been born to survive, and was frankly tougher than the more polished exterior he projected.

"Why didn't you tell me about him?" Potter asked.

"I didn't realise you knew him. I didn't know he was at Hogwarts. And I tried to forget about... all of that."

Potter opened his mouth again, and Severus intervened. "This will have to wait for another time. We're not here for the nostalgia, and we're pressed for time."

She nodded slowly. "You said you needed to ask me to do something. I'm not getting involved, Sev. I can't. I have my family to think of."

The nickname caught him totally by surprise; he hadn't heard it in many, many years and he hadn't expected it from her. Doing his best to ignore it – he'd always hated it and it was associated with so many painful memories, but she had earned the right to use it, and God knows he'd been called worse things – he nodded. "I know. I'm not asking you to get involved. This is going to sound a little strange, but I need a sample of your blood."


Instead of answering, he lightly nudged Hermione with his knee again; she jumped, but sat straighter and cleared her throat. "It's true, Mrs Dursley. It's because you're Harry's closest relative, you see."

"I – I'm sorry, who are you?"

"My name is Hermione Granger, Mrs Dursley. I'm one of Harry's friends. We've been working on this a long time. I don't know what Professor Snape has told you about Harry's scar, but we found out a couple of years ago that there's a sort of link between him and – and You-Know-Who. We've been blocking it, but now we know how to get rid of it completely; only we need some blood from a close family member to do it."

Petunia looked at her for a moment. "Are you the one who telephoned our house?"

"Er, no, that was me," Weasley confessed from the sofa, grinning sheepishly. "Sorry about that. I've never used a phone-thing before." Severus gave him a scathing look; it wasn't as if it was difficult. The visitor's entrance to the Ministry was in a phone box, after all.

She looked at him and narrowed her eyes. "I know you. You were in the – the car."

Severus sat back in the uncomfortable armchair and enjoyed the sight of the two boys squirming, half closing his eyes and appreciating the looks on their faces. He remembered how petrified he had made them after that little stunt; not a tenth as much as they had deserved, frankly, especially given what he had overheard them saying about him as he'd stalked them before making his move. That Ford was a nice car, too. He'd seen it in the woods a few times over the years, chasing things.

Hermione poked him in the shin and gave him a glare, which probably didn't have the effect she wanted it to. Severus had thought for over a year now that she looked incredibly sexy when she was angry; besides, part of him was remembering the last time he'd seen her looking up at him from the floor, with her eyes blazing as she took him deep into her mouth. Giving her an innocent look, he glanced away and carefully cleared his thoughts as she spoke again.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Mrs Dursley, but if we sit here talking about all the stupid things Ron's ever done then we'll be here until Christmas. This really is very important. We wouldn't ask if there was any other way."

Petunia looked at her hands with a troubled expression for quite a long time before she answered, without looking up. "How much blood?"

"These two small vials," Hermione said in her Healer voice. "We only need one, really, but the second one is just in case. I've been taught how to take blood samples; it won't hurt and it's perfectly safe. And it won't affect you in any way."

There was another very long silence. "Will this work, Sev?" she asked, staring at him.

"I'm as sure as I can be without trying it. I think so. But I can't guarantee it completely. I do think it's our only chance, though."

"And if it works, then you can kill him?"


"...Do it, then. Do it and get out of my house."

Hermione was nothing if not professional; ten minutes later they were in the hallway and being ushered out of the door. Potter paused and looked back at his aunt with a troubled expression, fidgeting. "Where are Uncle Vernon and Dudley?"

"Vernon's at work, and Dudley's at school." The two of them were speaking in rather a stilted manner; Severus studied the dynamics through narrowed eyes. They didn't act like family members, even by his rather skewed standards, and there wasn't much of a resemblance. They couldn't look one another in the eyes, either.

Potter tried to grin. "Shame. I wanted Professor Snape to meet them."

Weasley stifled a laugh at that, and Severus' lips twitched. He'd never met Vernon, but he had met one of Petunia's early boyfriends, once upon a time. It hadn't gone well, but it had been extremely funny. And from what little he had heard of Dudley – who the hell names a boy Dudley anyway? – the boy sounded like another Crabbe or Goyle, although hopefully marginally brighter. Petunia looked horrified by the notion, which added to his amusement.

Looking back at Potter, he paused, glancing at Hermione; she returned his gaze steadily with a touch of pleading in her gaze that was asking him to fix this. I'm not a therapist, damnit! Still, he was probably in a better position to sort this tangle out than anyone else he could think of. Resisting the urge to sigh, he waved a hand impatiently. "Go on, you three. I'll catch up."

"But I..." Potter protested, and he shook his head.

"Not today. We don't have time. You'll have other chances, Potter. Go on."

"Come on, Harry," Hermione said quietly, towing her friend towards the door with Weasley bringing up the rear. No farewells, Severus noted, from anyone. Interesting.

He stood in the hallway and regarded Petunia pensively, resisting the urge to either shove his hands in his pockets or flick his hair over his face. "You shouldn't have let this surprise you," he said finally. "I told you when we last spoke that it wasn't over. Hoping otherwise doesn't change that." I should know.

"What do you want? You got your blood. Leave me alone."

"Why did you do it, Petunia?" he asked quietly. "Oh, I've worked out a lot of it. I even gave Potter a couple of excuses. But I'm not convinced it was your main reason. I know you were partly trying to suppress his magic, to make him 'normal', and I know that was partly for his sake, although I'm sure it was also so you wouldn't have a freak in your house." He couldn't quite keep his voice neutral; someone else had called him a freak before, and the memory wasn't pleasant. "But there's a lot more to it than that, so I would like to hear why. You were never a nice girl, but child abuse? More my style than yours." Although there were some things even he wouldn't do.

"Whatever he's told you..." she began, and he snorted.

"He's told me nothing. Abused children don't talk about it. Did you really imagine someone as important as the Boy Who Lived would be left unwatched? That we'd just dump him on you and walk away? Dumbledore knew everything, and I'm reasonably sure I know most of it. Why? He's your blood. Do you hate him that much?"

Even as he said it, he realised this wasn't just about her and Potter. Even now, part of him wanted to understand why and how people could turn on their own families, what made adults turn against children. He didn't like the realisation; that was supposed to have been behind him now.

"Doesn't it hurt you, when you look at him and see her looking back from his face?" she asked; despite the stiff anger in her voice, he could hear the touch of pain. Petunia might not have liked her sister very much by the end, but she had loved her. Just as he had, once.

"Of course it does," he replied tiredly. More than anyone has ever imagined. "But it's not his fault, and I try not to punish him for it. It doesn't always work, as I would be the first to admit had anyone actually asked me instead of accusing me, but I have done my best not to take it out on him, as much as I can. Is it because you blame him for Lily's death?" he asked. "So do I, a little. I've still never raised a hand to him in my life."

She couldn't meet his eyes, and he frowned, studying her. He'd wondered if it was something to do with her husband, but no, she didn't show any of the signs. "Do you even know why, any more?" he asked. "Nobody could blame you for treating your son better, for treating him as less, for whatever warped reason, but not to that extreme. You don't know the damage you could have done. The damage you have done, because he's not really normal, and I'm not talking about magic. Vernon hates him, doesn't he? And you stood and let it happen." He might have told Potter the truth, his own life had been so much worse, but that didn't make a difference. He could still understand how the boy felt, better than anyone else would believe.

"Why are you doing this? You can't expect me to believe you care about him, not when he would have been yours if it weren't for James!"

That hurt. It was easy to keep his face impassive, but he could feel a muscle twitching under one eye. If she had been male she'd be bleeding for that right now, even though it was wrong. Taking a deep breath, Severus replied levelly, "I am simply finding it hard to reconcile his upbringing with the girl I remember. You were never a nice girl, but you never liked bullies. You pushed Mikey Davis off his bike because he pulled Lily's hair." And then he came after all three of us and I got my arse kicked, he remembered idly. Probably because of what I called him, admittedly. "And you never hesitated to stand up to me. And now I learn you let your own son become a bully and let your husband turn borderline abusive. Do you really hate the magical world that much?"

Petunia glared at him with eyes full of resentment. "Why shouldn't I?"

"Good point," he agreed calmly. "But you know you're not the only one pushed aside by Dumbledore. You couldn't have attended Hogwarts, but he could have done more than merely send a patronising letter. We're not all like him. And you shouldn't have taken it out on a small boy. You were all he had."

"As if you care."

Severus shrugged. "Not about him specifically, no, but I don't like bullies either. God knows I treated him badly enough, but I kept to the right side of the line, no matter what anyone else might think. Enough, Petunia. I have a war to fight. You were wrong, and you know it as well as I do or you wouldn't be arguing with me. I still know you better than that. Whatever your reasons, you were wrong, and you owe your nephew an explanation. Once this is done, you will sit down and talk to him. He's grown up a lot in the past year or so; he might even listen with something resembling intelligence."

Her pale eyes flashed with fury, and for a heartbeat she looked horribly like Lily. "You don't have the right to give me orders, not after what you've done! Isn't it your fault he had to live with us in the first place?"

The accusation stung a little, but Severus had largely made his peace with that by now. He'd always feel guilty, but only up to a point. "Partly, yes, but I did everything I could to try to prevent it. There is nothing more I could have done. Nobody else involved can say the same." He met her eyes, and he knew his gaze had turned cold and hard. "When this is done, you will talk to him," he repeated softly. "You owe him an explanation, if nothing else. I'm not asking."

She shrugged in response, but he still knew her well enough to know she would. God knows what would be said, and no doubt it would end with Potter storming off, but still, he'd done all he was prepared to do. He turned towards the door. "I'll leave you to your life, then."


"Yes?" he asked, turning to look at her through narrowed eyes at the changed tone of voice.

"The girl who was with you earlier, who took the blood."

"Miss Granger?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow and fighting a sudden desire to laugh; he hadn't expected this, not from her. "What about her?"

"Don't even try it. You're with her, aren't you."

"Yes," he replied calmly; he didn't want to lie about something that important, and it wasn't as if Petunia was in a position to tell anyone anyway.

"She's a child," she hissed, giving him a disgusted look.

"She's eighteen. She's of age in both worlds and years above the age of consent; she is also far more mature than most young women her age. If things go according to plan we're both going to live at least another hundred years anyway, and if they don't go according to plan then it really won't matter." One way or another, he didn't intend to outlive her, at least not for long.

"She's one of your students, isn't she?"

"She used to be, yes. She wasn't by the time our relationship began." Admittedly she had still been his student the first time he had kissed her, but he really didn't care any more. She was more important than the rules. They both knew he wasn't a dirty old man or a pervert so who cared what anyone else thought? Besides... he almost smiled... if she hadn't wanted him, she would have made it abundantly clear.

"She's Lily's son's friend," Petunia said darkly.

"Believe me, I had noticed," he said irritably. "That has nothing to do with anything. Lily never wanted me so why should it matter that someone else finally does? If it's any consolation, I intend to marry her, assuming she'll have me." Saying it aloud to someone else made it all the more real; he was still scared out of his wits, but he also wanted to grin and announce it from the rooftops.

That earned him a rather shocked look and took a lot of the anger out of her face, and Severus barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes, well aware that everyone was going to think the same thing – big bad teacher abusing his position to seduce a naïve and helpless innocent schoolgirl. The fact that the naïve and innocent schoolgirl would have hexed his bollocks off if she hadn't been willing and wasn't helpless by any definition of the word probably wasn't going to change anyone's minds.

"Is she..."

"No, damnit!" he snapped, seriously insulted now. He lowered his voice to a hiss. "No, she bloody well is not pregnant. For God's sake, Petunia, I know you don't think much of me, but do you really think I would treat any woman like that? You once knew me better than that, and I haven't changed that much." Not that it was possible anyway at the moment, but that really wasn't the point.

"No. No, you haven't. I'm sorry." She hesitated. "I always thought Lily made the wrong choice, you know. I never liked you or approved of you, you know that... but... I think you loved her more than James did."

That caught him by surprise. Severus stared at her for a while before nodding slowly. It was probably true, simply because when he loved, he did so completely and held back nothing of himself. It wasn't very healthy, really, but it was how he was. "She made the right choice for her," he said finally. "I couldn't have given her what she wanted, and she wasn't what I really needed either."

Petunia nodded slowly and took a deep breath, lifting her pale eyes to his. "I hope you win, Severus. I hope you make him pay. Good luck with your life. But don't come back here. Do you understand?"

He met her gaze for a moment and nodded slowly. "I understand," he said levelly. "One piece of advice, before I go. If your son fathers children, the odds are quite high that they will have magic, especially if they are girls. Start getting used to the idea now." He inclined his head to her. "Goodbye, Petunia."

When he caught up with the three of them on their way back to the alley to Apparate, it was Ron who spoke first; Hermione had no idea what to say, frankly. "Sev?" he asked somewhat incredulously.

"Use that nickname again and I will break your jaw," Severus replied distantly. "I've never liked it."

"You let my aunt get away with it, though," Harry said pensively.

"Because I'm never going to see her again. Sadly, I do have to see the pair of you regularly for a little while longer."

"It was my mum's name for you, wasn't it?"

"Not just hers, but she was the first to call me that, yes."

Harry stared at Severus' back with an almost longing expression; he so obviously desperately wanted to ask questions, but equally wasn't sure he would be allowed to. He looked at Hermione, who shrugged; she didn't know how Severus would react either. He obviously wasn't happy at the moment, but he seemed all right.

"Will you... can you tell me a bit about her? Please?" Harry asked finally.

After a pause, he replied distantly, "I'm not telling you bedtime stories. But I will answer questions, if I must."

"I don't really know what to ask. I don't know anything about her. At all."

"I'm not sure I ever knew much," Severus muttered, sighing. "Well, think about it."

"Thank you."

He grunted in response and lengthened his stride, and they walked quickly and in silence back to the alley. Hermione caught up and walked next to him until he looked down at her; his eyes softened slightly, although he clearly wasn't in the mood to smile, and he touched her hand briefly, silently telling her that he was all right. A brief gleam in his eyes also told her to stop fussing over him, which she ignored with a swift smile.

Harry cleared his throat as they prepared to Apparate home. "Um... could we go somewhere first?"

"Where?" Ron asked; from the look on Severus' face, he already knew what Harry was about to say.

"...Godric's Hollow."

"No," Severus said flatly.

"Why not?"

"One, it will probably be watched. Two, I'm not going back there again. If you really want to go, get someone else from the Order to go with you after the war ends."

"Again? You've been there before?"


"Did you go to their funeral?"

"No. I had other commitments at the time, and I don't think I would have dared anyway."

"Then when...?" He didn't answer, and after a moment Harry said very quietly, "You were there that night, weren't you. On Halloween."

Severus swallowed audibly and nodded, his eyes growing empty and cool once more. "Yes."

"What happened?"

"You know more than I, Potter. I got there too late." His voice was flat, his eyes shadowed. "Until I heard your memory of it during an Occlumency lesson, I didn't know exactly what happened either. Although your memory is incomplete. It stops as he curses you."

"I remember Hagrid taking me on the motorbike," Harry said thoughtfully. "Sort of, anyway. How do you know my memory is incomplete? What happened after the curse rebounded?" Severus shook his head wordlessly and didn't answer. Harry stared at him. "What did you..."

"Don't," he hissed, his eyes hardening as he held up a hand. "I won't talk about that night. Quite apart from anything else, I don't remember it very clearly. Yes, I was there, afterwards. That's enough."


He shook his head again and sighed. "It's not safe to be out here for much longer. Let's get back to the house. I will try to answer some of your questions, but there are things I won't talk about, and some things I won't know the answers to. It was a complicated situation."

Some time later they had all settled down in the living room. Hermione respected the look Severus gave her and stayed away, perching on the arm of the sofa beside the boys, giving him a bit of space; she wasn't sure that was the best thing for him at the moment, but it was obviously what he wanted. Evidently he felt he needed a bit of distance if he was to talk about it. She and Ron kept silent, just listening as the two of them started to talk.

"How did you meet her?" Harry asked softly.

"I was nine," Severus replied slowly, his dark eyes remote and Occluded. "I saw her showing magic to her sister. She was the only other magical child I had ever met. I followed them home to find out where they lived, and followed them around for most of a week before I dared to speak to her."

"And you were friends?"

"I was the only other magical child she knew, too. At that point she didn't even know that what she was doing was magic, not really. Nor did her family. Her parents were very worried that there was something wrong with her. I gave them the answers they needed and eased a lot of the confusion. It didn't matter then whether we actually had anything in common or not."

"When did you meet my dad?"

His expression didn't alter, remaining empty and distant. "We were sitting on the train talking about what houses we might be in. Your father and godfather were present and heard me mention Slytherin and promptly took exception to me. We had our first argument before we even knew one another's names; I think they had only met one another half an hour before, but already they had become quite the team," he added bitterly.

"Was that it?" Harry asked uncomfortably.

Severus nodded. "That's it. They disliked me purely because I mentioned Slytherin. That's how it started. Later it developed into quite a feud, and I certainly gave back as good as I got, but there was no reason for their initial dislike and I never understood why they took against me. I did nothing wrong at the beginning. They were friendly and personable to everyone else, but not me, and to this day I still don't know why. I suppose I never will, now."

Harry swallowed, clearly not happy to hear this, but nodded. "How did you feel when my mum was Sorted into Gryffindor? Did you think you could be as well?"

"I didn't ask the Hat to put me with her, if that's what you mean. I didn't try to influence it at all. I wanted to; my mother had warned me that Slytherin would not be tolerant of a half-blood and that I would find it difficult, and once your mother had been Sorted into Gryffindor I knew it would be difficult for us to remain friends if I ended up in Slytherin. I think I was hoping for Ravenclaw, somewhere neutral but prestigious. But I said nothing and I let it Sort me without my opinion; I think I believed that it would make sure I ended up where I was supposed to be, not where I wanted to be. I don't really remember. It was a long time ago."

Hermione considered this. If Severus had been put into Gryffindor as well... to be honest, she doubted he would have survived. The Marauders' harassment had been bad enough without his having to share a dormitory with them as well; she had a feeling that the suicide attempt would have happened years earlier, and would probably have been successful. He also probably wouldn't have learned the harsh lessons that had taught him to survive, and it was doubtful he would be here now. He was certainly more than brave enough to be a Gryffindor, but then, he was smart enough for Ravenclaw and loyal enough for Hufflepuff too, and it was his Slytherin cunning that had kept him alive.

"Did the Hat say anything to you?" Harry asked him.

"Not directly, no. It was muttering to itself for a while before it said Slytherin, though. It took a while for it to decide."

"What happened after that?"

He shrugged. "I had a bad time of things for a few weeks, until the older boys in Slytherin learned that I could look after myself and that I wasn't going to let myself be bullied, at least not by them. Your mother and I didn't see much of each other. We didn't have many lessons together; we did our homework together in the library every few evenings and sometimes spent part of the weekends together, but that was about it. It bothered me a lot more than it did her; your mother was a popular girl and quickly made a lot of friends, but I didn't. I only had her, really. Even then it was all rather one-sided."

"And my dad, and Sirius, and the others?"

"I didn't see much of them either, but the pattern was already established. They hounded me whenever they saw me, often purely just because I was there. The early years weren't bad. It was once we all entered adolescence that everything started falling apart. The petty little squabbles and bickering became quite serious fights as our tempers developed; we had more lessons together; your father and I began to understand that we were rivals, of a sort, and your godfather was starting to show signs of instability."


"Black's behaviour wasn't normal, Potter. It isn't normal for a sixteen year old to try and kill another boy on a whim. Despite everyone who spoke to him about it, the potentially serious consequences never registered with him. Until the day he died I am certain that he never saw anything wrong with what he did. He genuinely could not see what the problem was and he never really understood why his friends objected. But that came later."

Harry took a deep breath, obviously steeling himself. "Did you love my mother?"

"Yes," Severus replied simply.

"When did you fall in love with her?"

"I didn't. Not the way you mean. It doesn't work like that, at least not with me. There was no moment of realisation, with choirs of angels and singing bluebirds or whatever. From the day I first met her she was the most important thing in my life, and that didn't change even after our friendship ended; it didn't begin to change until she died. But to answer the question you really meant to ask, I first admitted it to myself properly when I was about thirteen, and at the same time I resolved never to say anything to her."


"Because I knew she didn't love me. I'm not stupid. Even then I knew that I needed our friendship far more than she did and that it wasn't an equal relationship. We were never as close as I wanted, and by then I was spending more time with my year mates and with the older Slytherins. I was already taking the first steps towards the Death Eaters, although I didn't know it at the time."

"Did she ever know how you felt about her?"

"Of course she did. Teenage boys are never as smart as they think they are; I'm certain she knew. I think it was one reason why our friendship ended; she didn't know how else to discourage me. She certainly never felt anything much for me. But I never told her."

"When – when did you stop being friends?"

"You saw it, Potter. You saw the exact moment that it happened."

"When you called her a Mudblood," Harry said somewhat disapprovingly.

"Yes. When I called her a Mudblood." His voice was cold. "When, aged sixteen, I was being held in the air by one ankle, using a spell I had invented, by the boys who had made my life a misery for years for no good reason, who were tormenting me yet again simply because they were bored. When I had been disarmed, when they were beginning to hurt and humiliate me yet again in front of a sizeable crowd and were threatening what was actually a form of sexual assault. When I was scared, helpless, and so angry I could barely see. So I lashed out, I made a mistake and said what amounted to a spiteful racial slur without thinking. She joined in with the crowd who were taunting me, she turned on me, and she never spoke to me again."


"There were a lot more memories in the Pensieve. Be glad I dragged you out when I did; if you had seen anything following that incident, I would have killed you or at the very least forcibly wiped your memory. I spent the rest of the term trying to apologise and begging her to forgive me. I slept in the corridor outside Gryffindor Tower every night for a week. Everyone else thought I was pathetic. I was a laughingstock. And finally she told me, in quite graphic terms, to go to Hell, and that was that."

"Just because of that?"

"No. That was just the excuse. She had wanted to end our friendship for some time before that, I'm certain of it. She didn't like my friends in Slytherin, she was worried about my increasing fascination with the Dark Arts, she was uncomfortable with my feelings for her. I wasn't the kind of boy she wanted as a friend any more and she wanted out."

"That sounds so... cold."

"She was sixteen and she didn't know what to do about the fact that her friend was on the verge of joining an organisation somewhere between the Hitler Youth and the Ku Klux Klan. She wanted to get the hell away from me in case I dragged her down with me. I can't blame her for that. It wasn't her fault that I was in love with her."

"That evening in the Room of Requirement," Harry said slowly. "What you said to me. This is what you were really talking about, isn't it? When you talked about what might happen if I didn't learn to control myself?"

Severus nodded. "It was one of the worst and most defining moments of my entire life. I doubt my friendship with your mother could have lasted much longer anyway, but if it had ended less painfully, and if it hadn't been so outwardly my fault, I think things might have turned out differently. I didn't want you to make a similar mistake."

Harry swallowed and nodded before moving on. "The thing in the Shack... Was it the way you said it happened, in our third year?"

"More or less. Black set me up to get myself killed. Your father panicked and barely got there in time to stop it. And Dumbledore did nothing, except to threaten me with expulsion and memory modification if I said anything."

Hermione bit her lip very hard, trying not to cry. Severus sounded remote and dispassionate now, but she knew a lot of the real story. That incident had eventually led him to the Death Eaters, and she was sure now that it had mostly been just because nobody else would have him. It had also led him to attempt to commit suicide only a month or so after it had happened, even if the attempt had only been half-hearted. Add in Lily's betrayal and rejection, and she knew now that was also the year his parents had died... His life hadn't been happy before, and then in just a few months it had fallen apart completely.

"Did my mum know what had happened?"


"What would she have done if she had?"

"I really don't know. I don't think she would have done anything, although she might not have been such friends with Black. I don't think it would have made much difference apart from that."

"She was friends with him?"

"With all of them. She liked them anyway, except for their treatment of me. What happened by the lake and then the incident in the Shack shocked your father and Lupin, at least, and they backed off a little. Not much, but a little, and it was never as public. Your mother thought it had more or less stopped and they never told her differently, so there was no reason for her not to be friends with them."

"When did she start going out with my dad?"

"Seventh year, just before Christmas. I think your father proposed after the graduation ceremony. I don't know; I tried not to know."

"They went into the Order when they left school?"

"All of them, the Marauders and your mother, at Dumbledore's personal invitation."

"And you joined the Death Eaters."



"Because I wanted to," Severus replied honestly. "There were extenuating circumstances. I had been misled about what would happen to me, what I would be asked to do, what would be involved, and I truly felt that I had no other option; I had nowhere else to go and I was being offered false hope of something that didn't exist. But I was also angry and bitter, resentful and ambitious, and at the time, I wanted to."

"Did you ever see my mother again?"

"Not alive."

His Occlumency was fraying; his eyes were stormy and his voice was tight with suppressed pain. Hermione gave Harry a pleading look. Please, Harry, stop this. You're hurting him. Her friend wasn't looking at her; he wasn't even looking at Severus any more, but staring at nothing, thinking about what he had been told.

"What was my mum really like?" he asked finally. "What sort of person was she?"

"I never knew her as an adult. As a child, she was bright, cheerful and curious. She was quick tempered but incapable of holding a grudge; she was happy and optimistic and never seemed to stop, always moving and chattering. As a teenager she was pretty, popular, vivacious; she was clever but much given to snap judgements and instant decisions, often not stopping to consider before acting. She knew what she wanted and went for it; she was brave but sometimes too impulsive. She had a good heart but she wasn't as open minded and accepting as she was when she was younger, and she was less tolerant of anything that wasn't ideal. Beyond that, you would have to ask any of the other members of the Order; they knew her better than I, after school ended."

"And my dad?"

"I never saw the real James Potter. All I ever saw was the thoughtless, arrogant, vicious bully who made my life absolute hell. But I do believe that he genuinely loved your mother, and she would never have married him if there wasn't more to him than that."

"Am I much like either of them?"

"More than you could possibly imagine. You are the absolute image of James in every last detail, except for the colour of your eyes; you have his voice and his way of speaking. You have Lily's eyes, her handwriting and a lot of her mannerisms. From what I know of you, your personality seems to be a surprisingly even blend of both of them."

"Is that why you hated me?" Harry asked quietly.

"Mostly, yes," Severus admitted honestly. "You couldn't have had more of a painful impact on me if someone had specifically designed you to do so. But it was also because you are quite annoying, because everyone else seemed to think you were God's gift, because you made my life far more difficult than it needed to be right from the start, and because despite all the evidence to the contrary you insisted on continuing to see me as the villain no matter what I did or who told you that I could be trusted."

After a moment Harry smiled despite himself. "Fair enough." He sat back. "Thank you for talking to me."

Severus shrugged and stood up. Ron spoke for the first time, trying to improve the mood. "It's my turn to make dinner tonight. What does everyone want?"

"Nothing," Severus said distantly, walking towards the door into the kitchen. "I want a cigarette and then I'm going to bed."

"It's barely dark," Harry said, looking a little guilty; apparently he had just realised how hard this must have been for the older man. Severus didn't answer, closing the door behind him.

The three teenagers sat silently for a few minutes, listening until they heard him climb the stairs; water ran briefly in the bathroom before they heard the bedroom door close.

"Sorry, Hermione," Harry said finally, rubbing the back of his neck.

"It's okay, Harry. I know how badly you've always wanted to know about your family, and so does he. If it was too bad, I don't think he would have answered you. I'll go up and see him after we've eaten. He's upset, I think, but it could be a lot worse. I think he needed to talk as well, you know."

"That couldn't have been much fun for you, though."

"I knew a lot of it already, and I know a few things he didn't talk about." Hermione smiled a little sadly. "Mostly I just wanted to hug him and promise to make it better. I don't think he'd have appreciated that, though."

"Have you ever talked about my mum?"

"No. As I've said before, Harry, it's nothing to do with me, or with the two of us. Lily was his past, and it's helped make him who he is now, but that's all. I'm certain that he loves me, and that's all that matters." She gave the ceiling a worried look before shrugging and looking back at her best friend. "Are you okay?"

"Um, yeah, I think so. I feel a bit weird, but I think I'm okay. I think after the war's done, I want to sit down with Lupin and have a long talk. I wish I'd asked him more in third year, really. And I'll try to talk to Aunt Petunia, as well." He looked pensive for a moment before grinning suddenly, looking more like his old self. "Right now, though, I'm bloody starving. C'mon, let's see what food there is."

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 53 of 60

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