Harry rubbed his bloodshot eyes with his fists. He tried to focus on the book in front of him but the words simply swam on the page. They had been at this for days now, searching for some means of destroying the Dark object that housed a piece of Voldemort’s soul.
“How about we take a break?” Harry suggested. “Maybe get something to eat?”
Snape nodded once, looking as haggard as Harry felt. Harry had been getting little sleep and he suspected Snape had been getting even less. When he closed his eyes at night, the thought that part of Voldemort resided within the same walls chilled him. And they, as of yet, had found no way to destroy it.
Snape led the way to the kitchen where Nimby kindly brought in a pot of coffee and some sandwiches of odd and interesting ingredients. Harry took one, not really caring what was in it, and poured himself a cup of coffee.
The silence gnawed at Harry. It had been so quiet the past few days, neither Harry nor Snape speaking as they perused what seemed like the entire library. At last, Harry could stand it no longer.
“Can we put some music on?” Harry asked. “This silence is killing me.”
Snape raised a brow. “Music?”
Harry shrugged. “You know, music. None of that strange wizard stuff, but some good, hard rock. The muggle kind. You know?”
“I do not.”
“You’re really missing out, Sna- were you serious about letting me call you ‘Severus’?” Harry asked curiously.
“I had said that to quiet you but seeing as it is a good possibility that neither of us will survive this war, I truly have ceased caring,” Snape said dryly.
“Severus,” Harry tried, gauging his reaction. “Man, that’s weird.”
“And this is going to shut you up, correct?” Snape asked with a scowl.
Harry shook his head vehemently. “If you won’t let me put on music, then we’ll have to fill the quiet with some sparkling conversation.”
“Oh Merlin,” Snape muttered, looking down into his coffee cup as if wondering if there was enough coffee in the world for this.
“Pick a topic,” Harry commanded, closing his dry eyes for a moment. Maybe the lack of sleep was making him delusional. After all, when had he ever tried to seek out a conversation with Snape, of all people?
“Have you heard from Ms. Granger?” Snape asked.
Harry shook his head sadly. “Not yet. I’m hopeful though; maybe she’s just being super thorough. That wouldn’t exactly be unexpected.”
“Are you sure the message arrived safely?”
“I don’t see how it could have possibly been compromised,” Harry said honestly. “I put a bunch of layers of security on it.”
“All of which could have been cracked, I am sure,” Severus pointed out.
Harry shrugged. “I can’t imagine anything went wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see if she replies, I guess.”
“I hardly think there is anything that she could find that we have missed,” Snape admitted. “My collection of books on Dark Magic is far more extensive than anything she might be able to get a hold of.”
Harry shook his head solemnly. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my Hogwarts years, it’s not to underestimate the power of Hermione’s research.”
Snape gave him a look. “That’s the one thing you’ve learned? Not where to find a beozar or what the purpose of moonstone dust is?”
Harry shrugged. “What can I say? Hermione was always there, like a constant, sometimes annoying, source of knowledge. And Potions class was always there, like a constantly annoying source of daydream time...”
Snape cast his eyes to the ceiling in a look of exasperation. “To think, the son of the potions prodigy Lily Evans views the class as a Binns lecture.”
Harry snorted. “Well it’s not like you helped engage me in potions. The times I paid attention were just so you didn’t dock me house points.”
“If you were not paying attention the entire time, it seems as if I did not dock enough,” Snape said dryly.
“Maybe,” Harry admitted. As a moment of silence fell, Harry thought over what Snape had just said about Lily. Hadn’t his greatest wish been to know his parents? Wasn’t it still, save his desire to defeat Voldemort? And here, sitting in front of him, was someone who had known her better than almost anyone, except maybe James Potter. Harry had wanted to talk more with Sirius and Lupin about his parents but they had so little time together... could this possibly be his second chance?
Broaching the question with care, Harry asked, “Would you tell me about her? About Lily?”
Snape’s eyes narrowed on Harry. “You would make me relive that?”
“I know almost nothing about her, about them,” Harry said. “You owe me that much, don’t you?”
“I owe you nothing,” Snape insisted, though Harry knew that he had won. With a sigh, Snape gave in. “Your mother was the only one who could see past preconceived notions that had and most likely will always plague Hogwarts. She did not abandon me when I was sorted into Slytherin. She could see the good in everyone, even those who did not deserve it, like myself. Lily could light up a room, just by walking in. She wasn’t just cheerful, though, she was also brilliant. Charms and potions were her best subjects. She deserved better,” Snape said, voice far away. His eyes glazed over and the pain was evident in his voice.
“Better than...?” Harry prompted.
“Than to be killed by the Dark Lord. Better than him, better than me,” Snape muttered.
Harry bit his lip. This candid Snape was freaking him out a bit, but he was hungry for knowledge about his parents. He couldn’t resist one more question. “What about James? Was he really as bad as you, er, made him out to be?” Harry tried at the last minute to avoid reminding Snape that he had glimpsed his memories.
Snape turned his dark eyes on Harry. “Worse, even.”
“But Dumbledore told me once that you hated him because he saved your life,” Harry protested. “Was he really that bad?”
Snape leaned forward, expression intense and a bit frightening. “Did he tell you how it came to that point?” Harry shook his head. “Your father thought it would be fun to lead me to Lupin on the full moon, transforming in the Shrieking Shack. I saw him. He would have killed me, or turned me, had Black not chickened out. Your father was not so perfect as he is made out to be,” Snape finished with a venom.
Harry was quiet for a moment, letting him calm down. He, too, needed a minute to process the fact that his father could very well have led Snape to his death. And then who would be helping him defeat Voldemort?
“I think I ought to get some sleep,” Harry said unsteadily. He rose to leave but first, turned to Snape. “Thanks for telling me... Severus.”
Harry woke up to a loud crack like that of gunfire. He bolted upright, scrambling for his glasses and wand, without which he was useless. Shoving his glasses on his face, Harry looked around for the intruder but found only a thin piece of parchment fluttering to the floor.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he tried to still his beating heart. He had forgotten that the transportation spell was quite so loud. Glancing at the clock, Harry figured it was form Hermione. Who else would be up at eight in the morning? Finally calming down, Harry was far too awake to try and get any more sleep. Swinging his legs out of bed, Harry knelt to pick up the letter that had drifted to the floor.
He crossed the room to the small desk and sank down in the chair, breaking the seal with the tap of his wand. It seemed that Hermione had taken the same precautions that he had. The words bled into the paper, apparently realizing that the intended recipient was, in fact, the one reading this letter.
In response to your letter:
Goodness, just focus on everything good. “Zonko’s”, says Fred.
That’s all I’ve got for you.
Best of luck,
Harry grinned. Hermione had picked a more complicated code than he had, though it must mean that her hidden message was short. Harry knew that she hated the nickname, but by signing the letter “‘Mione”, he knew to shift the first letter of each word one to the left in the alphabet. Pulling out a fresh sheet of parchment, Harry copied the first letter of each of the words in the second sentence and wrote out the alphabet. Soon enough, he had cracked the code. Looking down at the letters he had written, Harry read: FIENDFYRE.
“Fiendfyre,” Harry muttered. “Fiendfyre! Hermione, you’re a genius!” he exclaimed to the empty room. He owed his friend so much.
Hurrying from the room, Harry sprinted down the hallway, bursting with excitement. “Snape!” he called in the direction of Snape’s room. “Severus!”
The door flung open and Snape came charging out, wand raised. “What is it? has something happened?”
At the look on Harry’s face, Snape lowered his wand.
“Hermione sent a letter,” Harry told him, holding it up. “Fiendfyre. That’s what we need!”
“Fiendfyre...” Snape muttered thoughtfully. “I hadn’t thought of that. You truly do have a bright friend, there, Harry.”
Harry grinned, both at the truth of the statement and at the casual use of his first name. “I only saw fiendfyre mentioned a few times when reading; what is it, exactly?”
“Cursed flame. Horribly difficult to control and even more so to extinguish. It would certainly destroy something beyond repair,” Snape mused. “Yes, I believe it will work.”
Harry smiled broadly. “Can we do it, then?”
Snape gave him an incredulous look. “Even I cannot control fiendfyre; that is a deep area of the Dark Arts in which I have never dabbled. No, we cannot do it immediately, we must prepare. We must be able to control it before we unleash it.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “You know how tired I am of preparing?”
“About as tired as I am of hearing you complain about it,” Snape replied smartly.
Harry spared him a dark look. “Fine. What do we have to do then?”
“Cast a containment circle, I should think,” Snape said. “I will do my best to control it, but if I fail...”
“Right,” Harry said. “Where? What do we need to do?”
Snape raised a brow at his eagerness. “The potions laboratory is the only room with stone floor rather than wood. I think that would be best.”
“Me too,” Harry agreed. “Let’s get started.”
Annoyed at Harry’s enthusiasm, Snape shot him a look. “Fine. We will need chalk, rosemary, thyme, root of dover, pollescent pods and moonstone dust. You can gather those.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed.
At last, they were doing something. Finally they had a lead. Harry could hardly keep the bounce out of his step as he headed for the lab. He even went as far as to hum a bit of a tune to himself as he gathered the bottles of herbs that Snape had asked of him. Harry was happier than he had been in months; perhaps the happiest he had been since Hogwarts. For a good while, the mood was rather dismal over at Grimmauld place and catching a break, however it came, was the greatest relief that Harry could imagine. Soon, another piece of Voldemort would be destroyed. Soon, they would be one step closer to killing him for good this time. Soon, regardless of whether they succeeded or failed, Harry would be free.
AN: Please, please, please comment! There will be one more chapter before June 1 when this round ends and it is going to be EPIC! I hope... Anyway, be on the lookout and please let me know what you think!