The Black Unicorn

Part 2

By Hephastus


He opened his eyes. It was very dark and still; the bed clothes around him were heavy and warm, but cotton, not silk. He relaxed into the pillow, and moved his fingers carefully. The pain had retreated; but he did not know where he was. His eyes could make out the higher walls of this darkened room; there was no light; the curtains seemed to have been drawn. Rows of books, perhaps, against the wall? A fireplace. Not his room; different smells, textures. He breathed in, his ribs still ached and he moved his hips. His body still worked, and oddly, he was extremely hungry. The despair settled over him again, a soft, smothering glove.

Something had woken Dumbledore up. He stirred in the high-backed chair.

He had administered the antidote to the potion a day ago. The man had roused from semi-consciousness, 6 hours later, screaming in pain. There was some kind of curse on him, and Albus had placed a temporary blocking incantation that hindered the curse for several hours at a time, but the curse was very strong. Once Severus came out of his drug-induced state, Albus prayed he would be able to help him understand its origins.

Albus roused in the chair and sat up stiffly. The other man was awake, sitting up cautiously in the bed. Albus got up and drew one of the curtains aside, and the moon’s cold light shone into the room, illuminating the left side of the bedroom. He sat down beside the man on the bed, who had pulled himself up and was now leaning against the headboard. “Severus. How are you feeling.”

The older wizard’s eyes were hidden in the dark, but Snape could feel the worry on the man. He felt dead. Bleak. Empty. But aloud he replied, “Very tired. Very hungry. It hurts to move too much.” He could hear the weakness in his voice.

Albus placed his hand gently on the other man’s. “Severus. I realize this is difficult, but…..dear boy…… must tell me what has happened.” Dumbledore’s eyes searched the other man’s countenance. Snape’s eyes dropped. He became silent. He withdrew his hand from Dumbledore’s.

“Why didn’t you kill me.” The man’s head turned away from the headmaster. It was very still in the room. Albus shook his head slowly, and reached for the man’s hand again. Snape withdrew completely and spoke more rapidly. He turned to Dumbledore, his eyes burned into Albus’ own. “My life is over, Albus. He’s taken everything I have. He’s taken my soul.” The man’s voice began to tremble. “I’ve brought nothing….but harm to this place. I want to go home.” The man was still, stiller than death. Dumbledore gripped his left hand and did not let go. He paused, gathering his thoughts, and tightened his grasp when the man tried to pull away.

“Listen to me.” He gripped harder, and leaned into Severus. “Your mother helped you; you might have been hallucinating in your mind, but she was here. She was here; I may be an old, foolish wizard, but I know protection when I feel it. You will listen to me.” He shook the man’s hand; he was weakly and persistently trying to pull away, trying to shrink from the man’s words. “You will tell me what has happened. As long as there is breath in my body, there is nothing in this world beyond hope. Do….you…understand….me?” His voice was shaking. The other man’s free hand was at his face, covering his eyes. Neither of them said anything for a long while. The wind sighed softly against the window.

When he spoke again, Snape’s voice was a tangled thicket of emotion. “I can tell you, but nothing will change. And you will despise me for all of this.” Dumbledore was silent. He reached over to a tray that had been left on a table and picked up a tumbler. Cold chocolate was in it; the Headmaster took his wand and heated the chocolate, handing the tumbler to the man. Snape took it carefully.

“Just chocolate?”

“Yes. Just chocolate.” Dumbledore waited while Snape sipped the drink, relaxing, but not releasing his grasp of the other man’s hand. His thumb caressed the top of his wrist very gently.

“Go on.” The dark settled over both of them, a furtive shelter. Snape paused, placing the tumbler back on the bedside table.

“I went back to…..Voldemort….on your orders. To spy, gather information as we had discussed.” He paused, his head lowering. “But…..Riddle….you see, years ago, when I…murdered…those people…..Riddle had. Riddle had developed some kind of infatuation for me. He had begun a ritual with me right after I had taken the Dark Mark; I had thought it was a normal part of the proceedings, part of the ceremony associated with taking the Dark Mark. Stupidly, I did not realize the ceremony for what it was. Then the Potter boy did his thankful damage, and for many years, I struggled with….the guilt of what I had done. I thought about taking my own life, many times, but decided that teaching was….some compensation. And I was useful to you; I wasn’t interested in being alive, but I had a purpose, as long as I could serve your needs.” The man was not meeting his eyes. “Then….he surfaced again. You sent me ostensibly to gather information, and…..Albus….I should have known. But….I just didn’t think….I had no idea.” He could not stop the shaking in his voice. His hand twisted; Albus held on tightly. He closed his eyes, trying to gather himself; his face for once, was not still, Albus could see guilt and humiliation move across his countenance. “He…..raped me. Sometimes without drugs, many times while I was drugged. I would wake up, not knowing where I was, or who I was.”

Albus gripped his hand. Dumbledore had gone pale, he was speechless. Snape could not speak for several minutes. He found his voice. He answered Dumbledore’s silent question.

“The ritual. I went through with it. He did force me, and instead of resisting, which would have killed me, I….submitted. After that, I had no way of denying him; I was bound to him magically.” Albus had stood up and begun pacing. He looked as if he had aged 20 years in the time that Snape had been speaking. Snape continued, trying to explain.

“I felt…I deserved it. I was helping you, helping the cause. It was the way in which….I could truly atone for the deaths I had caused. If I finished the ritual, I was letting another person be accountable for my spiritual suicide, I could both……assuage the dead, and be of use….to you. It would give more…authenticity… my role as a spy.” His face contorted into the grimace of a smile. Albus sat back down on the edge of the bed, taking Snape’s hand in both of his; Severus saw anger, grief move across the features of Dumbledore. He watched him concentrate on subduing his emotions.

“Oh Severus.” Albus’ head was down. His brows were knit; anger and sadness were woven there.

“I murdered them, Albus, I took their *lives* from them…I alone am responsible for my actions. There is nothing left for me here. I am not even of use to you any longer. And so I tried….to kill myself. But the bond prevented me from taking my own life. That is why…..I returned here. And now you know everything. Albus….” He squeezed the older man’s hand gently. “You are the only wizard strong enough to release me…..if there’s any mercy anywhere within you, you will understand my misery, you must….please…let me go.” The younger wizard’s eyes pleaded; Albus saw the desperation, the well of sadness.

“My boy.” The older man’s voice was very tired, very sad. “I….am to blame for this. I sent you into the snare. I put you in harm’s way. Don’t you see that?” Snape’s hand grew still in Dumbledore’s. He did not move, but watched the older man. He shook his head with growing denial.

“No….I deserved it. I deserved it…I killed….murdered….those people, Albus…my own potions…..” he was shaking, he could not stop trembling.

“Hush! You must stop this, you must stop torturing yourself! You must move on! I know what you did, I know what you’ve been through but it won’t accomplish *anything* for another life to be wasted! Now listen to me. When you mixed those potions for the Death Eaters, those years ago, when you added your own magic, yourself, to those potions, did you also mix in the intent to kill specific individuals into those potions?” Snape’s eyes, hollow, followed the other man’s. His face was still, thinking.

“No. No, I produced them simply to flaunt my skills; I…desperately desired their admiration when I was a young man.”

“In other words, you had no idea they would use them for that purpose, is that right?” Dumbledore was very near.

Snape dropped his eyes. “No…..” He replied slowly, “but that does not excuse my role in that horrific episode.”

“If you live your life attempting to forever control what is most thoroughly out of your control, you will destroy yourself. As you are seeking to do.” Dumbledore leaned closer. Snape looked into his eyes tentatively; the older wizard’s eyes were haunted, destroyed by sadness. “How….how do you think I feel about putting people in harm’s way? Yourself included in this? I sent you into the snare; what about Sirius? He is *dead*, Snape. The Potter boy? He has suffered irreparable damage, inadvertently at my hands. If I took total and complete responsibility for every thread that I was involved in, I would collapse from the strain. At some point, Severus….” He caressed the man’s hand carefully, “you have to say goodbye, you must find a clear place in your heart, and let it go. I cannot tell you what a talented man you are; we are here to help one another, not to use each other up like your Slytherin cohorts of the past.” He thought hard to himself. Snape watched the man’s eyebrows knit together, almost as if he was struggling to express something difficult to him. “When….I was a young man, I had a similar struggle.” He bowed his head. Snape watched closely. Dumbledore appeared to be struggling with a memory, something upsetting. Severus listened; he did not know much of Dumbledore’s personal history. “I lost a dear friend. My best friend. Even, after all these dozens of years, I remember him….so fondly….” His voice trailed off, and Severus thought of Sirius, and his heart ached.

“What happened?” Snape’s voice was quiet in the dark room. Dumbledore reflected.

“He…committed suicide. He…..was in love. The woman with whom he was in love was betrothed to another. What was so upsetting to me was that I ignored the signs; he stopped eating. He stopped being with us. He told us he was just overwhelmed with schoolwork. I was a very dedicated student in those days, but I was also very social. I overlooked the signs…..I still, to this day, miss him so much.”

Dumbledore looked away, through the moonlit window.

“What was his name?” Snape’s voice was hushed.

“Vishal. He was from India; the young woman’s name was Emma. She was from an old, wealthy Irish family. They had arranged a propitious marriage for her between another old Irish family. I watched him….pine from a broken heart, under my nose, and I didn’t do a thing to help him. Conversely, he did not speak of her much. Emma loved him as well, but they had a quiet, careful relationship. He was very formal, very serious. She was outgoing, friendly, but quiet in her own way. Quiet about certain things. Severus.” He looked up. “Each of us carries the burden of what we have done, and have not done, in our individual pasts. Always, it is how we handle what happens after the mistake has been made. I look at you…I see something of Vishal in you….I see what could be lost, what could be gained…..I knew you seemed…cut off from everyone, down in those dungeons of yours, but I was never quite sure if you were depressed, or if it was simply your nature to be solitary. Now, I see the mistake I have made.” Dumbledore squeezed his hand. This time, Severus did not look away from him.

Sometimes, Severus, you do not know how precious a thing is until you absolutely lose it, or let it go from neglect. I think… are not aware of your own worth. Haven’t you ever wondered why I have no wife, no partner?” Snape dropped his eyes.

“I…assumed it was a personal choice.”

“Yes, but do you know why?” Snape shook his head mutely. “It’s because of Hogwarts. I love this school, Severus. My life….is this school. The children are my own children; the instructors, my loves, my dearest friends. Our magical culture, our history, our future….this is my life. My pledge is to protect this school with my very *life*. The reason I can accept putting people in harm’s way is for the protection of our entire magical community, our family, Severus; if we don’t stand together, we will be destroyed by forces that seek to undermine that family. You are part of this; I love you, Severus. I will do everything in my power to protect you.” The man looked up at Dumbledore tentatively. He had never heard such vehemence from Albus before. Something inside of him stirred.

Dumbledore backed off. “Now. There may be a way to break the bond between you and Voldemort. But you will understand this clearly: I am not taking your life. You have so much to live for; your mother and father loved each other and you are their precious creation. You must put away your vast guilt and take the delicate jewel that has been given to you; there may be a way to break the bond, I repeat to you, but you, yourself, must ask for help….Severus! If you can ask me to take your life, you must be able to ask me to help you regain it.” He pinned Severus with his stare. His hand gripped Snape’s hand with power. “I cannot tell you how important this is; you must make your decision.” The older man searched his eyes, searched the black, glittering depths and saw nothing but loss there. He pulled away, gently. “I will have my house elf bring you breakfast. I am going into the outer library to research rituals. Snape.” He stood up and turned to the man, vehemently. “Understand what I am asking you. Understand it very carefully. I am offering. You must receive. If you cannot, then surely you have lost your humanity and truly are beyond reach.” But,” he added, turning, “I don’t believe you are.” Dumbledore’s eyes were intense on Severus’ own, and then he swept out of the room.

Snape sank into the pillows behind him. Dumbledore’s words, and his emotion, had touched something within him. Severus had always expected to be used by Dumbledore. This facet of the headmaster’s was new to him; what Dumbledore was offering, the type of help he was offering and why, was so strange to him that he could not fathom it completely. Why would he help him if it put Albus in harm’s way? He simply assumed that Voldemort’s bond was too strong and there existed no way to sever that bond. Why would he help him if he had lost lost Severus’ use to him as a valuable spy? What other service could Severus offer to him? He would have to think hard about this. His face stilled. He was so incredibly tired. He rested, trying to gather the energy to concentrate on Dumbledore’s words. The house elf came in quietly with a tray of food and tea, and set it down on the table next to the bed, leaving as silently as he had come.


It was mid-morning in the outer library, and Dumbledore thought he had found something, but the reference was very spotty and quite old. It was from an old cabalistic sect, esoteric and arcane, called the Lambton Cult. In it was a group of rituals that were described as bonding rituals between individuals to accomplish various purposes. Some were purely sexual, some were spiritual, others combined the physical and spiritual, others were based on submission and others on cooperation. But the basic structure of the ritual remained consistent; blood, bodily fluid, specific potions, and the pledges between the ritual participants, fully given, were a common thread. He would need more information from Severus to make the right choices.

The door to his bedroom creaked open slowly. Severus came out, wrapped in a blanket from off of the bed.

“Severus. Dear boy. How are you doing.” Dumbledore laid the book down and went over to help him; the man looked a bit unsteady on his legs.

“To be honest, I don’t feel well….my arm….” Albus looked at the dark mark, then at Severus. His forehead had broken out into a sweat and his face was pale. The curse was breaking through again. Albus led him to a chair and Snape sat down heavily, clutching his arm; his eyes were not focusing. Albus brought his wand out and the room went dark as he towered over Severus. Snape, through the growing pain, was dimly aware of power being gathered, like a storm cloud engendering electricity, and then Dumbledore rumbled “incantatum obstructo!” and the pain vanished.

“There. That’s done. Snape, he’s got a binding curse set on you that’s somehow affiliated with the ritual you performed with him. We very much need to talk about the curse and the ritual. But…….” Albus sat down across from him in the couch that was positioned in the center of the library, and gave Severus a piercing look from under his eyebrows. “I need to know if you’ve made your decision.” Snape could not meet his eyes. He pulled the blanket closer about him.

“I have been thinking about….what you said. But….I need to ask you first.” He paused, his brow furrowing more deeply.

“Yes.” He leaned forward on the couch, trying to read the man with more acumen.

“If…..I am no use to you as a spy any longer, and yes, I know I am a decent potions instructor, but teachers are easy to find…..I can’t….quite understand….what my value is to you. Do you see some future worth in me that…..I cannot yet see?” Snape’s face was unreadable. He was motionless in the chair, the blanket pulled around him as if he was using the cloth’s strength to physically hold himself together.

“Severus.” Albus bowed his head, trying to comprehend the fact that this man before him only thought in terms of people’s value to one another as nothing but tools, devices to be used and then thrown aside after their task was done.

“Did you not hear what I said earlier, Severus.” Albus watched him, his gaze very serious.

“Yes. I heard what you said. But….I need a goal, Albus. I just….cannot keep on…finding the strength to exist if I have no use, no goal, in my life. I need to be useful, to know that I am useful…to someone.” His voice grew weaker.

“Severus. If Voldemort were in this room right now, his wand pointed directly at me, would you try and stop him?”

“Of course.” Snape was vexed at this turn in the conversation.

“Why?” Dumbledore snapped at him.

“Because I ….because you’ve helped me. I owe you.” His face flushed.

“Ah. That is not what you were going to say.” Dumbledore watched Severus very carefully. Snape sat motionless. Albus was very obviously thinking through something; he thought very hard, staring at Snape. Then he stood up. A decision had been made. “Severus. I am going to show you something. Something that will be very upsetting to you. But I believe it will help you. You must be strong; I know you are not yourself right now, but this is important.” Snape was frozen on the chair. He tightened the blanket around him. “Come with me.” Albus held out his hand, and Severus hesitated, looking up at Dumbledore; then he grasped the other man’s hand in his own.


Dumbledore took down the pensieve from the shelf in his receiving office. He brought his wand out with his right hand, and looked at Snape gravely. “Give me your hand.”

Suddenly, fear, unbidden, washed through Snape like cold water; Albus saw his eyes change, and he gripped his hand more strongly. “You must see this. It will help you. Severus! You can do this.” Snape wiped the hair from his eyes and gave a small nod. Then Albus was stirring the pensieve with his wand, and the room began to spin around the both of them; they were being pulled down into a drainstorm of silver and shadow; light writhed around them, rushing, and then the world solidified around them again. They both stood, trying to balance themselves in this new reality, and Severus looked around at the memory. He was standing outside his family’s old home. The urgent desire to run, run as fast as he could, drove through him, his stomach was churning, but Dumbledore clung to his hand tightly as he pulled away from the older man. “No. Hold your ground. Snape….watch.” Dumbledore’s eyes were fixed on the door.

A younger version of Dumbledore, in different colored robes, with darker eyebrows and a darker beard, but the same clear, open blue eyes stood at the doorstep. The welcoming chimes of the door rang, and their family’s house elf answered the door.

“Hildy…” Snape whispered. “She died….years ago….” Dumbledore squeezed his hand.

Hildy ushered Dumbledore in gracefully, taking the wizard’s hat as Albus stepped inside. They were compelled to follow as the memory unfolded. Snape began to pull away, gently, insistently.

“No….I don’t want to see this….please, Albus….” But Dumbledore held on, and the memory pulled and beckoned. Snape began to shake.

The younger Dumbledore was ushered through to the back sunroom; an open room in the back of the house with a southern exposure that was almost nothing but windows and filled with light from the morning sun. His mother had grown different kinds of more delicate flowers and plants in here; some light-tolerant ferns, a lemon tree that had given off sweet fragrance; an orchid that he remembered her babying. The sunroom’s plants were different now, however; there were only a few left. His mother was not there. Here was his father, lying in a chaise lounge, emaciated, under a set of windows in the corner; he had his mother’s old plaid blanket over his legs. His father sat up slowly in the lounge as Dumbledore walked into the room. Severus remembered when his father had stopped eating. His tall, broad frame looked caved in here, in the memory. His eyes were hollow and dull. Within the memory, he looked on as his father’s face followed Dumbledore’s. Severus watched, remembering, in sudden shock, the broad, solid features; the long, elegantly curved nose, the full mouth curled up slightly at the edges; the long face; his father’s soft, hawk-brown hair and hazel eyes. His father…..alive…..

“Father……” Severus’ chest spasmed and tears, uncontrolled, unwanted, began to roll down his face. The memory continued.

“Dumbledore.” His father’s voice, usually soft, did not contain the resonance he remembered. He had been very sick for a long time before he finally died. He had forgotten how thin his father’s voice had become.

“Hephastus.” The memory of Albus walked over quickly and sat down beside the wasted man, taking his hands in his.

“It is so good to see you. I apologize….for my current state. I fear I have not been myself since my wife passed away.” Albus patted the man’s hand mutely. “It was so kind of you to come. I am so appreciative. I wanted to congratulate you on becoming Headmaster at Hogwarts, and also to ask a favor, while I still could.” The Snapes were old friends of Hogwarts, and of Dumbledore’s. Albus had spent many nights at parties at the Snapes, playing cards, dancing, and chatting with friends; the Snapes had had all kinds of friends, enemies and allies alike. It had been a friendly house once.

“I fear, Albus, that….I grow too weak for this world. I’ve stayed for the child, Phyll asked me to, but….” He shook his head, his eyes gazing into Dumbledore’s with meaning, “I am…not a strong man. The child…I look at the child, Albus…and all I see is Phyllida….I see her eyes, her sensitivity….the boy thinks I don’t love him, but the fact….the fact is that I love him too much….at times I cannot bear to look at him. I need for you to promise me, you will let him come to Hogwarts. His magic is developing, he’s a smart boy, he’s just become withdrawn. He has no friends here; he will need….a little help. We’ve all been through too much, and I am….not the kind of father he needs, Albus.” Albus made clucking noises. The younger Dumbledore protested gently.

“Hephastus, you’re a fine man, a good father; how can you think this?” He moved towards the man on his chair.

“I love the boy so much….he needs so much more than I am capable of giving. But Albus….I have lost my will.” The man’s eyes tried to make the wizard comprehend. Albus squeezed the sick man’s hand. “You don’t understand what Phyllida and I had, Albus…” Hephastus moved his head to look at Dumbledore better, the man’s eyes were dull from grief. “I am not strong. I need your help; my heart is dying. I can feel it, here.” He placed his hand, open, on his chest. “It’s just the way I’m made…my heart is not strong enough to bear this pain. Please Albus, please promise me, you’ll look over the boy, just make sure he gets a little guidance. For me. For all of the old times?” Hephastus had squeezed Dumbledore’s hand back. Dumbledore’s younger self had nodded solemnly, shaken by his old friend’s words. Hephastus rested, his eyes were sad, but Dumbledore saw the dim light there. “I fear the boy thinks…that he had a hand in his mother’s passing. We had had…arguments. She had always been prone to illness, she’d had that disease all her life, flare-ups of it, you know. But she wanted a child so badly, there was nothing I could do to dissuade her. He wasn’t responsible, but sometimes when he looks at me….I can just tell. That’s what he is thinking.” Dumbledore had nodded silently, watching Hephastus. The older Snape sighed, and laid back in the chair, fatiguing quickly. “I don’t even have time to apologize to you for my weakness. It is what it is.” Severus was transfixed; then his father began to fade, and he reached out for him.

“No….Papa…” the memory melted away, and they were spinning, spinning back up and into the light.

Dumbledore led Snape back into the inner library after the disequilibrium had faded. Severus kept his head turned from the wizard, the blanket clutched around him. Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder and moved him towards the sofa. Snape sat down and curled into the corner of the couch, his head turned away, the curtain of black hair a shielding blind. Dumbledore placed himself next to Snape and put his arm around him. He waited.

“You didn’t murder your mother, Severus. Your father did not hate you. There is nothing, *nothing* that you did for which you should feel guilt.” Albus sat with him until he could control himself. Both of them rested quietly on the sofa. Time passed. Severus spoke a few minutes later.

“My father…..died when I was 10 years old. I used to go to sleep on him in that chaise lounge.” He did not tell Dumbledore that one morning, his father had simply not woken up. He squashed that memory, quickly. Albus thankfully spoke.

“I knew your father, Severus. He was a kind man; but he was right. Your mother and father had something very rare among people. And men…sometimes men are very emotionally delicate. Your father suffered enormously after your mother died. Sometimes….people just fade. It’s just the way that they are made. You were not responsible.” He looked off, his eyes distant, thinking. “I should have watched you more carefully. Your father asked me to look after you. I fear, Severus, that I did not pay attention as well as I should have.” He looked at Severus with meaning. Severus’ head was bowed where he sat.

“That’s not true. I remember your help. I remember very clearly…you knew I had a talent for potions; you encouraged me. It was….my Aunt Augusta….she came later, after Father had died….to take over the household. She persuaded me….to join Slytherin.” He remembered his Aunt, the cruel, thin face, the bitter eyes. They both sat, thinking, lost in their separate worlds. After a while, Snape looked over tentatively at Dumbledore. His face was composed again, the still mask in place over his features.

“Is there anything you can do to sunder the bond of the ritual?’ He continued. “If…if there is, I am asking….for your help. I would like to ask for your assistance.” His voice was composed, formal.

“Dear boy. Yes, there is a way, but it will involve great delicacy, timing, and research. Severus….understand….the only thing for which I want to use you is to help you, yourself, heal your wounds. Do you understand that?” Dumbledore squeezed his shoulder warmly. Severus nodded slowly.

“Yes. I understand.” Snape closed his eyes. Albus peered at Snape; the circles under his eyes had grown darker. He was clearly exhausted from the morning’s events.

“Severus. Why don’t you eat something and rest a bit before we discuss the ritual. Time is of the essence, but you look as if you are about to keel over.” Snape nodded mutely, and turned to go back into the bedroom. His own despair had been replaced by impotent sadness upon seeing his father. He crept back into the bed without touching the food; overwhelming fatigue took him, and his mind sank away.

He dreamed. He was dropping through a veil in the sky; he was high, high up, above the clouds. It was the blackest and coldest of nights here, so high; stars blazed, their icy light like a scattering of pearls cast into the opalescent black velvet. He was flying, he seemed disembodied. He felt the push of wind on his back and in his ears…pulsing, enormous, rhythmic. He felt rather than saw the beast. The dragon was dark, darker than the night sky, and its fine scales reflected the light of the stars and absorbed it, until dragon and night seemed to be made out of the same substance. He was rushing alongside the dragon; its arms were stretched out along its body, black, gleaming leather; there were fresh scars, though, on the arm. The wings pulsed with steady, relentless strength. They were so delicate, the gray-black membrane textured like ocean kelp, translucent, smooth. They were shot through with darker, pulsing veins that spread through the membranes of the wings as they worked effortlessly. The dragon’s intent was urgent and wordless. It was going home, home. It was being called back to an unknown nest, and Severus felt the urgency, felt the careful hope the beast had; unsure, but anticipating, trusting to its intuition that the new home would be welcoming. He looked into the dragon’s eyes as the head turned, its tongue flicking, tasting the air; the eyes were golden, but flecked with green, the green of summer grass, emeralds, seawater.


The sun was warm on his arm. He opened his eyes, waking; he knew where he was. This room remained constant; the morning sun was sending shafts of light through the window of the quiet bedroom. He was still in Dumbledore’s care. The conversation and events of the early morning had not been a dream, but the dragon had been. Reality was becoming steadier around him. He was groggy and he pulled himself upright. Already the dream was growing dimmer, but the feeling he had shared with the dragon was completely alien to him; the feel of trust, of hope. He touched these feelings carefully in his mind, as one would an unfamiliar gift. He held them up to the dim light, trying them on like delicate clothing, new protection for his wasted heart.

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