Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Drought is (Apparently) Over...

...or to put it another way, my muse has finally come back home, busted in the door, dropped her bags in the livingroom and demanded to know what's for dinner. So here's what I'm cookin':


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Yes, I'm a bad writer. I should be finishing The Healer's Apprentice or Well, Done My Good and Faithful Servant or, for any Superman fans still out there, Love's Divine. But in case you haven't figured it out by now, I am my muse's bitch. She whips me, beats me and takes away my charge card at will. Hence my erratic output. On the other hand, she does like to fill out a universe. This story takes place between the events of The Healer's Apprentice and Well Done. The rest you can figure out from the text.


We can’t all go to Hogwarts you know.

Doesn’t mean we want to wind up making change on the Knight Bus.

We’re not squibs. Thank gods. We might not have much magic but we still have some.

We never eat in the Great Hall, where even Hagrid gets a regular seat. That’s because we’re higher than the house elves and lower than the students. Unless you were really paying attention you’d never know we were there. Which makes it that much easier for the faculty to pretend that we aren’t. Still, Filch doesn’t eat with them. We’re above Filch. I suppose that’s some comfort.

We do have our own staff room which doubles as a dining room. It’s 50-50 whether we sleep over or not. Some of us have quarters and some of us come in from Hogsmeade everyday. I think the Hogsmeade folks have a better lot. After so many years I’ve started to feel like the spinster aunt in the attic.

I did have greater ambitions than this. I had hoped to work at Gringotts. The goblins seem to prefer us. Outside of the curse-breakers they really don’t like to have much truck with humans. When they can’t avoid hiring us, they like to pick those of us who are just this side of squibs. Unfortunately, I was beat out by that witch from Leicester. I’d been certain I’d come in first! But she beat me by 2 points.

Yes we take OWLS. Not NEWTS though. After OWLS we take another year in our specialty and then we’re free to make our way. My specialty was Magical Administration and Accounting. I’ve always loved numbers. They have their own magic. You could manipulate them as dexterously as a wand and create effects just as powerful.

I liked that feeling of power. When you don’t have enough magic to get into Hogwarts you take every little advantage you can get.

But as I said I didn’t score high enough for Gringotts. Wretched goblins.

But I got lucky. Uriah Sands, who’d grown up in Hogsmeade, told me that Hogwarts needed a new bursar. The old one apparently had had too much to say about staffers spending habits as he paid the school’s bills and especially when he handed out the bags of galleons that constituted the faculty’s monthly salaries. After getting himself hexed – they suspect it was a potion in the coffee; he’d have known to duck if he’d seen a wand – he was persuaded to take early retirement and a replacement was needed. Uriah had been at Cornwall with me in the stonemasons’ course before moving on to become a fellow of the Pythagorean College so he owled me. We’ve always been friends.

It was manna from heaven.

The interview was nerve-wracking but I survived – and even impressed the Deputy Headmistress with my no-nonsense attitude, which happily mirrored her own. The Headmaster was the final arbiter though. How I survived that audience I’ll never know. He is as fey as Minerva McGonagall is practical. He gives the impression of not knowing a knut from a Muggle nickel and seeming to believe that the castle runs on air. Of course it doesn’t. Even if the elves are all but enslaved to the school, there are still salaries to pay; storerooms to fill; plumbing, stone and windows to maintain. Somebody has to know when to order classroom equipment, medical supplies, and replacement Quidditch brooms. Somebody has to reconcile the accounts when the faculty overspends their budgets. No, it’s not transfiguration, or “foolish wand waving” or a “simmering cauldron.” But it keeps the candles lit and somebody has to pay attention to these things. Magic can’t do everything you know. I suspect the Headmaster knows this but likes to pretend he doesn’t. It makes it easier to play innocent with me when I have to negotiate with a creditor thanks to some extravagance of his or provide cover when the Board of Governors complains about an expense. If I never have to be in the same room as the oily blonde slick known as Lucius Malfoy it will be too soon!

But I don’t care about the Headmaster’s peccadilloes. He could dance on the ceiling with Peeves and charge tickets for all I care. It’d probably be a great fund-raiser if he did and maybe I’ll casually drop in conversation the next time we meet to do the budgets. For now though, it’s all about pleasing him. Keeping him happy is a small price to pay for the security of employment at Hogwarts. Other than Gringotts’ there’s no safer place to be. I have free room and board, which – if I watch my sickles – leaves me with plenty of money to salt away.

I can even to splurge on the occasional treat. I prefer to indulge in a little shopping in Diagon Alley or visit a day spa in the lush, green serenity of Mint Alley. But Uriah has been pressuring me to spend time with him in Hogsmeade. His parents still live there on their tidy little farm with the snug house. Uriah’s father was a stonemason too. Uriah Sr. built the house so it’ll take an attack from You-Know-Who himself to bring it down. I know what Uriah wants. And I should accept. What are the chances that I’ll do better?

And yet…

The thing none of the students or faculty ever say about Cornwall is that it’s the last refuge of diminished expectations. If Muggles have their Harvards and vocational schools, the wizard world has Hogwarts and Cornwall. Money never stops one from going to Hogwarts. I should know. Every year, I dip into the school’s treasury for the scholarship students myself. Always under Dumbledore’s orders of course. As I said we’re never allowed into the Great Hall to eat but we’re allowed to watch the Start of Year Feast and the Sorting Ceremony. Why we’re not allowed to stand unobtrusively along the walls and observe I’ll never know. Perhaps they fear we’ll leach the magic from the room. Perhaps they think the envy and frustration will finally get the better of us and we’ll pounce on the little First Years like vampires, sinking our teeth into their tender little necks and sucking the magic out of them. Ha. If only…No it’s not money that keeps students out of Hogwarts. It’s magical power levels. I and my kind are simply not good enough to enroll here. Full stop. Perhaps we were at one point, generations back along our family lines. But somewhere along the way, the magic started diminishing, decade after decade until, unlike grandpa who got into Hogwarts by the skin of his teeth, we are simply barred. That’s the story of my family anyway.

So we never say it out loud at Cornwall. Why? It depends. Cornwall students come in two flavors: those from families like mine where the magic is slowly leaking away and those from families of squibs whose magic is finally renewing itself. That is, some students come from families that are on the way up the ladder and others come from families that are on the way down. You’d think we could meet civilly somewhere in the middle. Instead the ones on the way down look down upon the ones on the way up. Not that I feel that way about Uriah. I’ve never had a truer friend. But his mother and his grandparents on both sides are squibs. And my mother made it clear the day we finally accepted that the Hogwarts letter was never going to come that I had a responsibility to marry as well as I could. That means finding someone stronger than me magically. And Uriah is strong. He’s a Pythagorean Fellow for goodness’ sakes. And although membership depends more on technical competence and mystical knowledge more than raw magic, it’s still prestigious.

But he’s not THAT much stronger than I. And a stonemason could never compare to a potions master.

Yes, I know, he’s completely out of my sphere. Even more than the Headmaster he looks like a mage from the dark ages, still basking in the afterglow left by Merlin’s departure. He could be a magical Mordred himself. He’s cutting and cruel and an absolute terror to children and colleagues alike. But the power ripples off him in waves. I can feel it prickling along my skin when I come into the Headmaster’s office and he’s still there. For all his surliness, they are close, he and the Headmaster.

He has no lover in Hogsmeade. Or if he has I haven’t heard of it. And I’ve kept watch. I’ve discreetly asked around. Never directly myself of course. Even though Uriah travels often and his parents are often overloaded with work on the farm, it’s just too risky. I can’t be caught. I can’t even be seen.

Because as I said, he’s out of my league.

If he has needs, he’s getting them met in Diagon Alley, although with his dark power I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Knockturn Alley. I don’t care. No I do care. If he’s trolling Knockturn Alley for his pleasures he won’t be able to do it forever. No matter how much he hates it, he’s still a teacher and can’t afford to let himself be seen as morally corrupt. From what I hear about his past, he can’t afford another mistake. In fact it’s his past that opens the door for me. If he truly was, as they say, a follower of You-Know-Who, it doesn’t matter that he switched sides and was pardoned. No decent witch of his class will have him. Otherwise he’d be married already. Because I’ve seen the way the other witches look at him, the female faculty members and the women in Hogsmeade. They don’t let him know they’re doing it but they look all the same. He’s magnetic. And he has no more control over it than he does over the color of his eyes. Clearly, one of them would have made a move after all these years if they weren’t afraid of being tarred by his reputation.

Yes, I know magnets repel as well as attract. But a determined woman with a critical need and a persistent attitude wouldn’t let that stop her. It’s snobbishness, plain and simple, that has kept him alone.

Well I can’t afford to have that kind of pride.

Even if I’d had it before, Cornwall would have beaten it out of me. It’s not that the teachers are cruel. In fact, I think they coddle us a little too much. They’re oh so eager to remind us that we’re all equal, that it’s the mage’s spirit and not his or her magic that counts. Well of course they’re lying – with good intentions but still lying. That’s not how the wizard world works. After all, not even Cornwall admits squibs. And while Hogwarts shelters in a powerfully warded castle fortress as students arrive on their dedicated train line, Cornwall students occupy a modest manor house in the shadow of the ruins of Tintagel and make their way there as best they can by portkey, floo, or even Muggle transport. It’s only the first years who take the Knight bus. Once they’ve had a year for the naivety to wash off, they follow the manner of the older students who take the Knight bus only when they have to and only at night. It’s bad enough that we have to spend five years scrabbling around the remains of Camelot dreaming of a glory our families will never have or will never have again. But the Knight Bus is just too much. We may not have gotten into Hogwarts but none of us wanted to become Stan Shunpike.

Uriah never seemed to care though. He’s always been too laid back for his own good. Truthfully, he really shouldn’t be wasting his time with me. He doesn’t have to. He’s a Pythagorean Fellow. It’s not a Hogwarts certificate but it’s close enough without actually having attended. There’s a certain delicacy in the magic it takes to erect stone buildings, a certain subtlety, believe it or not. Not every wizard can master it. Those who do are quite respected. Still, I never see him casting a wandering eye over the seventh year girls when he comes for his annual inspection of Hogwarts’ foundations. He only ever seems to have eyes for me.

Such a romantic.

When he comes he always manages to meet me for lunch. And always before he goes he manages to get me to his parents’ house for dinner. His parents’ house is so…different. They’re no richer than my family, yet somehow they manage to be…happy…

I fear I will never understand Uriah.

But the sour lines on Severus Snape’s face striking face bespeak of anger; resentment; deprivation; and pain. Not just of dark, nefarious deeds but of scrabbling for far too much although equipped with far too little. The grinding frustration of years of laboring under scarcities too big crammed into rooms too small.

Him I understand.

So forgive me Uriah but I have to try. Perhaps you won’t have to. But if you never have to that means I’ve failed and I don’t intend to fail. Some needs are basic: the need for food and rest; the need for respectability and sex. The last two are the hardest to find to any satisfaction. And for this man, they’re nigh on impossible. Good. That means he’ll need me. I’m not a Hogwarts girl but then he was never going to get that anyway. And he’s too proud to be with a squib or a Muggle, not openly, not for any reason other than physical gratification, to scratch an itch. I’ll let him scratch and I’ll keep him from looking like a letcher while he does it. After all, that’s what wives are for isn’t it?

Oh yes, he’ll resist. But I’m willing to wait. And negotiate. I took a whole course on it. It was taught by a Gringott’s goblin so I learned from the best.

What’s his alternative? Prey on the seventh years? I’ve seen his eyes wander more than once to a girl in his own house. I’ve heard the faculty talking. She’s one of his favorites – apparently innocently because the faculty would never be able to sit on such a bombshell. I don’t need their corroboration though because I know two things. First, he worships the Headmaster so he’d fear to lose his trust. Second, he’s too cunning to court the headmaster’s wrath. Add in the fact that he can’t make a habit of going to Knockturn Alley and that leaves me – just a few floors above his dungeon and with a fireplace connected to the castle’s internal floo network.

Oh yes, I’ll wait as he winds himself up tighter and tighter. And I’ll look good while I’m doing it. The epitome of respectability. That was the whole point of the charitable witches and wizards who put up the donations that established Cornwall back in 1628. They had to do something with the children who had just enough magic to avoid being called squibs but not enough to go to Hogwarts. They needed to be disciplined, taught a trade, socially groomed on how to properly relate to their betters. They needed respectability.

I can’t do a simple wingardium leviosa but damned if I aren’t respectable.

Don’t hate me Uriah.

You of all people should understand.

You were at Cornwall too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Although a rousingly entertaining yarn in the tradition of its franchise siblings, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is hardly the strongest member of the bunch. While most critics seemed to have disliked its predecessor’s shift into a darker mood, I welcomed it. It was highly appropriate in the wake of the Dark Lord’s Goblet of Fire return to finally see the shadows falling over Harry Potter. Yes, there were tonal problems in Order of the Phoenix. But those problems appeared in the early sequences featuring the creation of Potter’s ad hoc student army which offered up a jarring Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show” gung-ho-ism that hardly made sense in the middle of that darkening epic.

Whether due to this criticism or not, the filmmakers have jettisoned much of Phoenix’s emotional context. Half-Blood viewers will enjoy its sharp humor and fast pace as well as savor the acting riches provided by the sterling adult supporting cast. Alan Rickman of course is a stand out as he creates a symphony out of frozen stillness, echoing perfectly his character Severus Snape’s tense tightrope suspension between right and wrong. Jim Broadbent mines surprising pathos from his portrayal of new potions master Prof. Slughorn, whose literary version was defined by unsympathetic moral cowardice. Michael Gambon gives his usual solid turn as Dumbledore, and Helena Bonham Carter creates serious chills as the manic Death Eater, Bellatrix. Among the younger cast, Tom Felton shines as an alternately angry and anguished Draco Malfoy, while Emma Watson turns in a funny, first-rate performance as an unexpectedly lovelorn Hermione.

However, those of you who’ve read the book, especially those who’ve read the entire series, may feel as if watching Half-Blood is the cinematic equivalent of reading Cliff Notes. True, a new cinematographer gives the film an invigorating visual immediacy. More than in any other installment, Half-Blood Prince’s vivid yet smudged palette looks as if you could reach out and touch the colors, smearing them across the screen in a stain that perfectly embodies the characters’ murky, messy human struggle to choose between right and wrong. That’s offset, though, by a cramped screen, oddly paced editing, and, worst of all, a screenplay that excises critical narrative threads, adding up to a film that feels hollow at its center. While viewers will eventually learn the identity of the Half-Blood Prince this movie will never explain why they should care. Admittedly, the book is massive and cuts for big-screen adaptation were unavoidable, even welcome. But the filmmakers’ decision not to integrate the novel’s darker themes of racism with the lighter focus on teen romance guts the moral heart of the story, creating a serious thematic continuity break in the film franchise so far. While the movie is definitely worth seeing, read the book if you want to know what’s really at stake as the first of the Deathly Hallows sequels is set to descend later this year.

-- Copyright T.L. Heard 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Reviews Are In!


Clearly I'm still tripping and skipping over this blogging thing because it's been ages since I've updated. However, I thought I'd just drop a line to to say thanks to KarenDetroit and airlady for positing reviews for For the Price of My Familiar at www.restrictedsection.org.

airlady said: "This was disturbing but good."

Sometimes disturbing works; thanks for the appreciation airlady!

KarenDetroit said: "truly better than 99% of the literature. Thanks!"

No Karen, thank YOU for reading and reviewing! Reviews are the strokes that keep me going people, so if you see something you like on the site, let me know!

Meanwhile, watch this space for my next installment of the Potion Master's Payday in the next two weeks. Also, if you're interested I can post Chapter 1 of The Healer's Apprentice, a prequel to Well Done, My Good and Faithful Servant which I need to get done before I can progress with Well Done. So if you want to see that chapter, let me know!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Notes on Money in Harry Potter

Potion Master’s Payday

How much money does Severus Snape make?

This is one of those topics that you can argue is both frivolous and fundamental. After all, before the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, many fans thought, based on the prejudices generally ascribed to his house, that Severus was some kind of pureblood wizard nobility. I have to admit I was rather shocked to see that he actually came from some dingy, rundown, working-class hovel with an abusive father and cowed mother. This was the last thing I expected for him.

And then I was thrilled.

I love the idea of Severus being half-blood and growing up in a working-class Muggle neighborhood. I think that set up creates such wonderful tension in his character. It also provides an emotional richness that, to me, disappears if he is a pureblood who comes from money. Also, he can be such a defensive person that the class issue seems to fit, especially in the (to my American perspective) class-conscious UK. This also provides a kind of pathos in his relationships with Lucius and Draco Malfoy. Finally, I love men who make their own way through hard work. That type of man is a fighter, a street fighter because he has so much prejudice against him already. I love the thought of Severus, this intellectual, scholarly man, having to be as tough as a brawler in order to make it. Neither Lucius nor Draco could ever understand that and the fact that Lucius remains Severus’ friend and Draco adores his house head throws a really complimentary light on all three characters.

But the underlying point of that pathos is that class matters even between friends. As a half-blood who has subjected himself to Voldemort’s pureblood tyranny and claims Lucius Malfoy as a friend, Severus above all knows that class matters. And while class isn’t solely determined by money, money goes a long way toward determining how mobile one can be. Knowing how much money Severus makes can tell us just how much freedom he has in the still class-conscious, even down right racist (in terms of Muggle-born vs. half-bloods vs. purebloods) magical society.

Which brings us back to the question: how much money does Severus make?

I want to know in both wizard terms and real world terms, preferably in UK and US currency. After searching the Internet, the only reliable sources I could find were articles posted on the Harry Potter Lexicon and Wikipedia web sites. Happily, the Lexicon lists some wizard-world salaries. Based on that information I’ve come up with an amount. With so little to go on, I used the entry-level salary for a Department of Ministry hit-witch or wizard listed in the Lexicon. It’s 700 galleons per month or 8,400 galleons per year. I used this amount because it’s for a government position and, as Hogwarts is a quasi-governmental institution (the Ministry seems to have oversight even though the school has a board of governors), I assumed the salaries might be structured on a similar scale.

So a hit-witch or wizard would make:
8,400 galleons per year (that’s 700 times 12 months equals 8,400)[1]

In British pounds that would be:
₤42,000 per year (using an exchange rate of ₤5 per 1 galleon)

In American dollars that would be, depending on the exchange rate (I am using two rates, the one quoted in the Lexicon article on wizard money and the one I got in February 2009 using the Lexicon’s currency converter):
$81,900 per year (if we use $9.75 per galleon)
$84,588 per year (if we use $10.07 per galleon)

That’s not a bad chunk of change in this economy. In U.S. terms we’d slice off 30% to account for state and federal taxes, social security, and unemployment insurance contributions. That leaves (again depending on exchange rates):
$57,330 in annual net
$59,211.60 in annual net

I don’t know what British or wizard taxes (if any) are like so I can’t account for those. Nor do I know whether they are required to carry their own medical insurance or if such a thing exists in the wizard world. The UK does have national health care, however I don’t know how it is funded so I don’t know how much, if any, of the average paycheck it claims. Of course, Hogwarts’ teachers presumably have free access to the infirmary. It’s not unheard of as, according to the Lexicon, a hit-wizard has his own “dedicated bed” at St. Mungo’s, so presumably, that’s a kind of medical insurance. If goblins can run a bank and lose money on a potions market (see the first Ministry of Magic scene in the Order of the Phoenix movie) then I’m sure there’s a goblin somewhere making money on selling medical and life insurance. However, I can’t estimate the cost of that at the moment so I’m leaving it out.

This is still a respectable salary for a young, entry-level wizard. I don’t know whether Severus has to pay for room and board or meals. I assume living space is provided for little or no fee since all of the teachers are required to live on the campus for the duration of the school year. I make similar assumptions about meals. Of course he bears responsibility for his own wardrobe, which appears to consist entirely of black – very cost effective. Aside from personal books, floo powder (or perhaps a broom), or specialized potion ingredients that he can’t find in the Hogwarts’ stores, Severus’ expenses should be very few. In America, he would be squarely in the middle class for the equivalent of a single, college-educated adult.

But there’s a problem. The hit-wizard’s salary is for a 12-month period. Hogwarts, however, is only in session from September 1 through the second week of June. That’s 10 months and two weeks, not a full year. Now Severus may or may not put money aside to tide him over the two months and two weeks he is not required to teach. The point is there’s a period of time when he doesn’t have to teach and hence when he doesn’t have to be paid. How does that affect his income?

It’s simple. If we multiply 700 times 10 months (7,000 galleons) and add in 2 weeks or half of a month’s pay (7,000 plus 350 galleons) we can say that Severus’ original starting salary at age 21 was:

7,350 galleons per year

If I use the exchange rate of 5 British pounds to one galleon we get:

₤36,750 per year in UK currency

If I convert to American dollars using either $9.75 or $10.07 per galleon, then I get the following amounts:

$71,662.50 per year (at the 9.75 rate) in U.S. currency
$74,014.50 per year
(at the 10.07 rate) in U.S. currency

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Severus is no longer a strapping twentysomething. He’s a seasoned professor with roughly 10 or more years of experience when we meet him. He is also the Head of Slytherin House. But he’s also a former Death Eater, a fact that is public knowledge. How do these factors affect his income?

I’ll discuss that in my next entry.

[1] “Money” article posted on the Harry Potter Lexicon web site http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizworld/money.html

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did It Again!

I finished another story. Whoo-hoo!

(And holy moly that I haven't posted in over a month. Yipe! Gotta work on that...)

Here it is. This is the first draft. I might revise it. But right now I just want to appreciate the fact that I've finished writing my second story. Feels good...

Answers to Nothing

Summary: Severus Snape makes an unscheduled visit to Tobias’ grave.

“I guess the joke was on you.”

He stood motionless as the bare bones trees stood sentinel with him, their bark occasionally scraped, like his chilled skin, by dry leaves blasted by the wind. Severus Snape stared down at the gravestone. The northerly gale blowing across the gray sky would normally have made his robes billow about him but he wasn’t wearing them. He wore a Muggle suit, gray like the dreariness above him. Black was the color of mourning and, he thought scornfully, there was nothing here to mourn.

His eyes stayed steadily on the granite marker. Modest as it was, it was still much too grand for the likes of what lay beneath it, Severus thought. Silently he read the inscription: Tobias Snape, born April 5, 1943, died July 10, 1977. Severus closed his eyes briefly as the memories of the night of July 10 returned to him. His hand moved to his collar, rubbing absently. He still had the scar. But this time he’d won.

And now, for the first time in 20 years he’d returned for a bonus round.

“Did you know?” he asked quietly. “Is that why you hated us?” He cocked his head to one side. “I would understand if you did,” he added, surprised.

Abruptly he hunkered down. An onlooker might have thought he was taking shelter from the wind. Instead, he peered even closer at the marker. Husband of Eileen Snape (nee Prince), father of Severus, he read further. He waited inside himself for a reaction: a lurching of his stomach, a sudden burning rush of anger up his spine, an impulse to kill. None of that came.

Tentatively, he stretched out a hand to touch the stone, his fingertips lingering on the word “father.” He now knew that word meant nothing to him with regard to Tobias Snape. Fate had already done what he’d thought he’d accomplished that sweltering July night and freed him of any further connection to Tobias Snape. Feeling Tobias’ life bleed out all over his hands that night had been one of the sweetest triumphs of his then life. It wasn’t until a decade later, after he’d taken the Dark Mark and then renounced it, after he’d licked Voldemort’s boots and then fled to Albus Dumbledore that he’d realized in horror that he’d only been playing a shell game. He’d replaced one father figure with another and still another, always looking for shelter from the storm, for someone strong enough to truly defeat the monster of his childhood. And then without warning the cord had been cut.

He wasn’t Tobias’. He never had been. The Half-Blood Prince didn’t exist.

“Is that why you punished us,” he whispered, the words torn from him as if sucked by the wind. “Like I punished Lily?”

He had become the monster, after Tobias’ death. He’d admitted as much when he’d thrown himself on Dumbledore’s mercy. He’d confessed his sins, though not all of them, only the ones he’d thought mattered. How could Dumbledore possibly have cared whether he had seduced James Potter’s wife? Life and death had been the issue, not marital failures. Not the twisted needs of a tortured man who’d still needed to best his rival. Not the pathetic need to take vengeance on an ex-lover because that was the only way he could still get to touch her.

For the first time that day, crouched in the bitter wind, he shivered.

At the time, he’d thought it was another triumph, seducing Lily Evans, now Lily Evans Potter, in her and James Potter’s bed. At the time it had been a game to him, a brutal, nasty game. So she loved James Potter, did she – and years later he could see now that she did – let’s just see how much, he’d decided. It had been shockingly easy to do. The timing had been everything. Although the wedding had been a celebration, people in the Potter circle were still tense. Lily especially had been anxious for she knew that Potter would be in the first line of any defense. The first time Potter had had to go away on assignment, Severus hadn’t struck. He’d merely watched the house, watched Lily’s movements and her moods. The second time…

Whenever he looked back on that night, he tried to tell himself that some unconscious magic from inside him had wound itself around her and lured her to him. For he remembered casting no spells, wordless or otherwise. He remembered feeling her tension, even from his wary position standing at her gate, as her anxiety wrapped itself around the house. He remembered placing his hands on her door and her opening it. He remembered baiting her, in vicious, childish ways and her falling for none of it. And he remembered lying on her bed and in her body, restarting what should never have stopped.

He remembered wishing he’d needed to use magic to make her do this. For if he could so easily make her betray a husband she loved, surely she must still love Severus. And if she did, then he could only blame himself for losing her.

He remembered, even as he released himself inside her, vowing to find a way to hurt her as deeply as she’d hurt him.

And he had.

He chuckled coldly. “I made her pay and you,” he said grimly. “How did it feel?” The image of emerald eyes, Lily’s eyes, in another face appeared in his mind. Eyes he’d sired. Eyes he’d stolen from James Potter who, true to form, had stolen right back with audacious application of the glamour charm, a spell he was only now beginning to learn how to unravel. For years, without knowing it, he’d looked into revenge’s eyes in his potions class every single day. He bowed his head.

“How badly did it hurt?” he added, “because I need to know.”

“Who let you in?”

The harsh Manchester accent cut through the wintry wind to land harshly on Severus’ ears and nerve-endings. He covered his surprise by rising in one fluid motion and turning slightly to glare imperiously down at the woman who’d startled him.

Instead of being intimidated, she took a step forward. Her eyes narrowed as she rudely examined him. “You’re Eileen’s boy aren’t you? What the hell are you doing here?”

Severus had stepped back at her first sentence, stunned at being recognized by a Muggle. His hand had instinctively reached for his wand. But then his mind registered her words, Eileen’s boy. Although his childhood home had frequently been invaded by Tobias’ relatives, he’d never been close to him. They were nothing more than variations on the violent theme that was Tobias. To them he was never Severus, or, as Lily used to call him, Sev or even, as one of their neighbor’s once dubbed him, Rus. He was never more than “boy” or more usually “Eileen’s boy” as if he’d wandered uninvited into their gene pool and polluted it.

His eyes took in the dry, pinched mouth, shellacked steel-gray hair, tatty woolen coat, fraying scarf and scuffed shoes. Then his eye fell on the cane. A solid, rounded rod of polished, brass-handled, dark mahogany, it was clearly the most expensive thing she had on her person. Although it was pitted and pocked with the wear of age, it could almost have been a wand it was so beautifully fashioned. For a moment, he was transfixed by it. With a suppressed shudder of distaste, he mentally sorted through a catalog of childhood recollections. Finally, reluctant memory placed the image of the woman before him.

When he was younger, before Hogwarts, before grammar school, she’d come to the house. When his mother had been too sick – i.e. too broken and bruised – to cook Tobias’ fry up or straighten the house, she had taken over. Despite having a permanent limp, she’d blown through the house with more vigor of a whirlwind, eyes like Tobias’ and a temper to match. Tobias had preferred a belt or his fists. She had preferred her cane.

Feeling oriented again, he addressed her. “Aunt…Celeste?”

The woman harrumphed as if realizing the offense had shifted in Severus’ favor. Reflexively, almost instinctively, she raised her cane, high, as high as Severus’ chest, as if to strike. “What’s it to you?” she barked.

He smiled slightly, politely, coldly. His eyes had followed every elevating degree of motion of that cane even as his hand tightened on his wand. She was so aggressively focused on blustering in front of him that she never noticed his slight hand motion. “Nothing anymore,” he said simply.

Heedless of her confusion he turned on the spot and vanished.

“Oh!” she gasped. The flower pot she’d carried in her other hand crashed to the ground. She stared hard at the emptiness where Severus used to be. She sliced her cane across the space, peering hard into nothing. Then, looking around guiltily, she caught herself. “Heathen devil,” she muttered, “Just stay away from here.” Straightening her coat, she grasped her cane hard as she slowly lowered herself before her brother’s grave. Pieces of broken pottery lay scattered at her feet. With a resigned sigh, she brushed the shards aside and grasped the now bedraggled carnations. As she laid them on the grass her eye fell on gravestone and out of habit she read its epitaph. With a cry, she dropped to the ground as the flowers slid from her slack hands.

The stone read: Tobias Snape, born April 5, 1943, died July 10, 1977 Husband of Eileen Snape (nee Prince), father of…nothing.


Friday, January 9, 2009

I Did It!


Here's a Happy New Year gift to me: I just finished a story.

Wait a minute now, you don't understand. I haven't FINISHED a piece of fiction since [checks watch, flips calendar page, adjust sundial] approximately 1995. THIRTEEN FREAKIN' YEARS PEOPLE! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

[Pauses. Takes a breath]

And here are the details:

1. It's a Harry Potter fan fiction featuring Severus and Dumbledore.

2. The title is: For the Price of My Familiar.

3. Logline: The more powerful the wizard, the more potent his familiar, and the revered phoenix is the strongest of all. But nothing so dearly desired comes without a price, even in the Wizard world. So what Faustian bargain did Dumbledore make to acquire Fawkes? And whose lives were trampled on – for the greater good, of course – in the process?

4. You can find it on Fan Fiction at http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4782241/1/. I would have posted it here but it's 30 pages and over 11,000 words long.

5. It happens in the Marauders Era but it's not about them.

6. I hadn't planned to write it. I was trying to write Chapter 4 of Well Done, My Good and Faithful Servant. But I realized I just didn't have enough narrative background to anchor that chapter. So this came out.

Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord! I FINISHED SOMETHING!!!!!!!!