To say that Severus Snape was unhappy to return home was perhaps the understatement of the century. The dark-haired wizard hadn’t said a word as he’d exited the Black’s library. He’d remained equally silent as he’d stepped outside onto the front porch.
Draco moved to his side, and Harry followed an instant later with an equally subdued attitude. All three were gone in a flash.
Moments later, they Apparated in the woods next to a river that had seen better days. The thin layer of snow that covered the ground wasn’t enough to hide the litter covering its banks. Mainly, it looked like an assortment of old cans of coke and empty beer bottles.
Draco straightened himself, inconspicuously ensuring that all his limbs were accounted for. Next to him, Harry seemed equally ill-at-ease, and Draco tried to give him an encouraging smile. Neither remarked on the fact that Severus had just effortlessly Side-Along Apparated them both.
Wordlessly, the Potions Master marched forward in the dwindling light of day. He led the way with heavy steps, his boots leaving deep footprints in the fresh snow. Harry and Draco followed dutifully.
The shudder that shook the man’s coat-covered shoulders as the woods cleared and they emerged into a small playpark that had seen better days might have been from the force of the memories or simply from the cold.
Turning to his left, Draco could see the beginning of a town in the distance. It, too, didn’t look like much. A chilly mist hung low over snow-covered rooftops, and an enormous chimney, relic of a disused mill, reared up on one side, shadowy and ominous.
So, this is where the Snapes grew up, he thought. A crappy town in the middle of nowhere with dilapidated brick houses and broken streetlamps. He understood his godfather’s reluctance to return home. He, too, would have preferred to stay well away from a dump like this. And just how far north of the map were they? Draco was shivering, and he pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his trousers to resist the cold.
“Any idea where she hid it?” he asked, more to break the heavy silence than anything else.
Severus remained silent as he moved forward, clearly aiming for the rusty swing set. By his side, Harry was equally quiet and withdrawn. Draco got the feeling he was missing something, and he caught the Gryffindor’s wrist to halt him before he could follow the Potions Master.
“Everything all right?” he asked, low enough that Severus wouldn’t hear.
Harry shook his head. “Been here before,” he replied in a similar tone. “With my aunt and uncle.”
Draco felt his eyebrows arch. “Really?”
“Took me a while to place the name, but yeah. The summer of my eleventh birthday.” He paused, swallowed nervously, then added. “I think that’s where my mother and aunt grew up.”
Draco’s head swivelled around to lock onto Severus. The dark-haired wizard was busy inspecting the swing set, oblivious to their little chat. “In the same town where the Snapes grew up?”
Harry nodded before saying tensely, “A small town like this can’t have more than one school, and Severus and my mom were born the same year. There’s no way they didn’t know each other back then.”
Shite, he thought, the implications of that revelation are huge. And Draco knew how sensitive a subject this was to Harry. He took a step closer to him and reached an arm around his shoulders in comfort. Harry was shivering, too, he discovered.
“I—uh—I don’t think it’s the time to bring that up,” Draco said hesitantly. “Maybe wait until we get back to Hogwarts, okay?”
Harry’s eyes were a bit too bright behind his round glasses, but he nodded eventually. Draco was reluctant to move away from him, but Harry took the choice from him when he walked away. Draco followed suit, staying slightly closer than he typically would.
When they neared the old swing set, they discovered that Severus had climbed on one of the swings to reach for the top bar of the rusty iron A-frame that held the whole contraption together. Severus held himself upright with one hand and used the other to unscrew the cap placed at the top iron bar’s extremity. He let the cap fall to the floor and reached inside the tube with two fingers. A moment later, he pulled out a swath of folded parchment that neither time nor rain had altered. It had been charmed to remain intact, and Draco’s hope surged. Whatever it was, it had to be Saturnine’s get-out-of-jail-free card.
Back in the Hogwarts’ dungeons, Harry wasn’t sure what to do. He’d known that Saturnine knew his mother. But Harry had never thought to ask Severus about it. If he had, would the man have told him the truth? Or would he have pretended that he’d first met Lily Evans at Hogwarts, as Saturnine did? And why the charade? What had Saturnine said again? he wondered as he tried to recall their earliest discussion on the subject—that not only did her life hang in the balance but that someone else’s did, too? Had she meant Severus?
Harry couldn’t see how Saturnine revealing that she had known Lily at a young age could ever have put Severus in any danger. But clearly, he didn’t know half of the story. That thought stirred something dark and foul within him: a ball of anger and discontent that had been smouldering for too long. He was tired of being kept in the dark by adults who thought they knew better than he did. He thought that would have ended when he’d turned seventeen. But he was apparently doomed to that kind of behaviour for the rest of his life.
Severus hadn’t been more talkative on the way back from the Midlands than on the way in, and they had reconvened to his rooms in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. The parchments had been Saturnine’s; a mere glance at the handwriting that covered the first page dispelled any doubts they might have had. They hadn’t risked reading them in the open, and Severus had tucked them in his robes’ pocket before Apparating them back to Scotland.
Now that they stood in his living room, he unfolded the lot and placed them flat atop the coffee table. There were seven sheets altogether, Harry counted. But only the first was in her handwriting; the others were in that of a stranger.
Although a warm fire flickered merrily in the grate at his back, the chill that had seeped into Harry’s bones in Cokeworth hadn’t left him. Saturnine had her secrets—she’d never made a secret of that—and Harry had a feeling they had just stumbled onto a big one. Looking at the idle sheets of parchment on the table, he felt dread and apprehension rise inside of him, and he almost wished they’d returned empty-handed.
Draco reached out for the first parchment on the pile, and he read it aloud.
London, April 18th, 1996.
My name is Saturnine Eileen Snape, and the documents attached to this letter are my insurance policy against the Ministry of Magic’s Head of Auror Office, Rufus Scrimgeour.
For nearly eight years, I have been forced by Auror Scrimgeour to perform various tasks ranging from housebreaking to witness intimidation. To my knowledge, the various assignments I was asked to undertake were always kept off the official records. And I do not doubt that my name will be absent from the Ministry’s copious files, as if I had never existed or worked for its judicial body. And yet I have, under fear of being sentenced to life in Azkaban for no other crime than merely existing.
Through no fault of my own, I was born an Elemental, a fact that Auror Scrimgeour realised in the autumn of 1988 when he investigated the rescue of a Muggle child who fell from a balcony from the top floor of a five-storey building. His interrogation of the witnesses led him to believe that nothing, save for Elemental Magic, could have explained the air displacement that occurred that afternoon, cushioned the boy’s fall, and set him safely back to the ground. His instincts were right and picked up on a split-second decision on my part done with no other thought than that of saving a child’s life. Left with mere seconds to act, I chose the surest route to success—one that didn’t require the use of a wand.
Luckily, no wizards or witches had been present that day, and the Muggles’ recollections were convoluted at best. When I steadfastly refused to admit to anything more than a simple Levitation Charm, Auror Scrimgeour was left with no other choice than to let me go, with the Ministry’s official thanks for my heroics. But, unbeknownst to me, he kept a close eye on me from then on. And when he was elected Head of the Auror Office in 1989, he sought me out again and used what he had found to force me to do his dirty work. Given my precarious position and his position of power, there was no doubt that any refusal on my part would have resulted in a one-way ticket to Azkaban. Furthermore, Auror Rufus Scrimgeour made several threats to my brother’s life and to that of my best friend’s. They were both in a precarious position which ensured my obedience.
Left with no other options, I did as I was told and broke into the homes he designated by using my powers to reach for windows otherwise impossible to get to. I sent powerful gales of winds after cowering witches to frighten them into doing whatever Auror Rufus Scrimgeour expected from them. And I spied from the skies on secret meetings and discreetly followed wizards the Head of Auror Office monitored.
Elemental Magic is somewhat removed from Traditional Magic. So, my many break-ins were never detected by conventional Security Charms, and my spying was never detected. The irony wasn’t lost on me that the difference for which I had been singled-out, which had garnered me the promise of a sentence worse than death, had suddenly become a valuable tool that Auror Rufus Scrimgeour was all too eager to use and abuse.
I do not kid myself into thinking that the missions I participated in were in line with the official Auror Office’s directives or even sanctioned by the Ministry. But as far as I know, they never resulted in anyone’s death. Nor did they cause undue harm to innocent witches and wizards. Despite his more than questionable methods, Rufus Scrimgeour was devoted to the pursuit of justice, and his misuse of my talents only sought to secure the condemnations of known criminals. I would not have stood for it otherwise, and I think he knew it.
Nevertheless, I yearned to have my freedom returned to me and to see the threats on my loved ones’ lives lifted. For years, I have sought to garner evidence of what was happening within the Ministry. But Auror Scrimgeour was nothing if not diligent in his obsession with secrecy. It has taken me seven years to garner the necessary documents to guarantee my freedom, and I am enclosing them with this letter.
I plan on hiding these documents where Rufus Scrimgeour will never think to look for them, and my next move will be to confront him and demand that he return me my freedom. Hopefully, he will see reason, and this matter will be settled. If not, and if this letter is to become my testament, let it be known that I am sincerely sorry for my actions. I never sought to cause harm to anyone and would have done things differently had I had a choice.
Saturnine E. Snape
P.S. To my brother dearest: should you ever read those lines, I am sorry for how we left things. I love you—always.