The Black Unicorn

Part 4

By Hephastus


They only had a day left before Voldemort’s curse would be unstoppable. Even now, with Albus obstructing the binding hold he had on Snape, the Dark Mark on his arm had started to throb.

Snape reached for his infusion of crushed henbane. He had re-written the letters that would hopefully be found after his death. He had had a frank discussion with Dumbledore about the chances of the new ritual replacing Voldemort’s hold on his soul. The chances were not good. There was every reason to believe that Voldemort would feel the link between himself and Snape dissolving during the new ritual that Dumbledore and Snape were going to undergo, and his wrath would be swift and deadly. Dumbledore was quite confident in the ritual he and Snape were performing; that was not the issue. Where the danger lay was in Voldemort feeling his tie to the Unicorn dissolving. Snape had decided, as Albus thought he might, that it was better to die trying to sever the link, than to remain a slave of Voldemort’s forever. That had been several hours ago.

Now Snape was working quietly down in his dungeon to create several poisons that might deter Voldemort’s intrusion into Dumbledore’s main residence within Hogwarts. He heated the mixture with his wand, and prepared to add the Ridgeback venom. The older wizard was amazing, really; only this morning Hagrid had come into Snape’s workroom with a fresh delivery of dragon bones, teeth, Ridgeback venom, and one of the most precious of all dragon-related materials, dragon blood. The blood of a dragon was one of the most mystical and magical items, as its properties allowed for a witch or wizard who took the substance to see through the veils of time, and to understand that which could not be understood under normal circumstances. He had immediately placed the blood in the refrigerated section of his potions collections. The blood was highly perishable. It must have come by fast courier this morning. He would have to ask Dumbledore where he had gotten it. He placed a moderate shielding spell on himself as he got ready to uncap the Ridgeback venom. But then…..he was probably not going to live to see many more days, and strangely, he felt very calm about that. The despair with which he had been living for so many years, the weight of it had seemed less over the last couple of days. The knowledge that he was brave enough to try to free himself of his past errors, and that Dumbledore had offered to help him with so much steadfastness, gave strength to his own crumbling defenses. The help offered had shored up a place in his soul, and knowing that he had made the right choice, finally, had strengthened his resolve.

The shielding spell in place, he poured the Ridgeback venom very carefully into the last container of henbane solution, misting agent, and poison dart frog venom. There were six spherical containers in all; he corked each one carefully and checked to make sure all were secure. He sighed, and pushed away from the worktable counter. That was done.

Now the difficult part. He had not wanted to think about this. He left the small, cramped workspace and walked out into his own office. He went through the door behind his desk. How many students had come in here for detention, quaking at him as he glowered at each unfortunate child, sitting behind this very desk. His lips twitched up in the shadow of a smile, and he ran his hand gently over the desk’s surface. No more. He wondered vaguely who might be the next potions instructor at Hogwarts. He was sure Dumbledore would find an adequate replacement. He moved back behind the desk and into the smaller bedroom off to the left, through the exit behind his main office. He walked into the bedroom, and steadied himself. Then he walked over to the chiffarobe and pulled open one of the drawers. He took out an item wrapped in an old handkerchief. He undid the handkerchief gently; in it was an old, red leather book. He picked up a small wooden box along with the book, and carried the items over to his bed. His hand ran over the exterior of the book; he remembered the day Sirius had given the book to him; a thank you present for helping Black with potions. He remembered the screaming, the hair-pulling, Black’s devil-may-care attitude, his friendliness even in the face of his own cruel sneering. The tension between them. Sirius. His hand caressed the binding. Then he moved to the box. He opened the box and searched through the few items inside; here it was. His mother’s wedding band. His heart squeezed in his chest. He could not bear to think of her for long. His eyes grew too blurred, and he squeezed the bridge of his nose between two fingers. He waited for a moment. Then he pulled out the last item, a gold necklace with an odd symbol hanging from it; very delicately wrought, a foreign symbol for dragon, given to him by an old friend. What could have been, but had not. He ran one of his long fingers over the character’s shape, as if he could feel, within the metal’s smooth surface, the soft shape of the woman who had given this to him, and he stared out the window. It was almost over. His eyes ran over the forms of the trees, the grass, Hagrid’s hut in the distance. The texture of the bed’s blanket suddenly stood out under his fingers. The rough, tight weave of the wool, the fine dark grain of the bed, the color of thick molasses….this was no time to become maudlin. He gathered the items, trying to clear his eyes, and left for Dumbledore’s chambers.


Hagrid had dropped her off at the entrance to the Great Hall of Hogwarts, and Esmeralda ran her hand through her hair, looking around in recognition at the old school. Memories came back to her like friendly ghosts…..her heart tightened in her chest as she saw her old friends, dead now….there was Lily and James….here they were going to the Quidditch pitch….Dumbledore leading them out in a ceremony… she was walking over to the solace of the Enchanted Forest when studies or young men distracted her too much…..then suddenly the real Dumbledore, older, but still radiating that mad charisma, was walking through the entrance and over to her, and they hugged one another enthusiastically. Esmeralda flushed in happiness to see him. He smelled good. He was such a solid, elemental presence. She suddenly felt much safer and more welcome at the school.

“Esmeralda Admantia. It is so good to see you. I am absolutely thrilled that you have agreed to join the teaching staff at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore smiled at her with exuberant warmth. Esmeralda ran her hand through her hair, a little embarrassed. She smiled back at him.

“It’s good to be back. Your offer, I have to say, was well-timed.” She suddenly was at a loss for words. Fafnaulda had reared up in her mind, and she moved around that painful memory. Albus took her arm, and began to walk with her slowly towards the southeastern direction of the school, out near the edge of the Enchanted Forest.

“Well, my dear, we have much to discuss. But first let me take you to your quarters. Was your journey….unremarkable?” Albus’ eyebrows went up as he queried her, searching her face. She was an attractive, strongly carved woman. Her gold-red hair was more muted now, her eyes still the clear green; Albus had forgotten the strength of her nose. And her height! She stood almost as tall as himself.

“Nothing remarkable. The weather was quite good; the flying was excellent.” She blushed suddenly. Albus looked at her, curious. She continued. “Oh…a hobby of mine. I took…a muggle aircraft flight from Norway over…to muggle London. I have….an interest in muggle flight. And then I apparated. My luggage is coming tomorrow. But…” she added quickly, “I brought the other items with me. Hagrid’s got them. He told me he was putting them in storage for you.”

“Ah. Very good. And were you able to obtain the blood?”

“I was. I had several donors; it wasn’t a bother at all.” Dumbledore patted her hand mutely. They were walking towards a wing of Hogwarts that Esmeralda did not remember clearly, but the best thing about it was its proximity to the Enchanted Forest. “Is this it?” They were walking up to a ground floor apartment, attached to the back of the main school and off at an angle. Dumbledore opened the wooden door and they walked in, peering into the dimness. Albus went over and pulled the curtains. Light poured in.

“I fear, my dear, that I have been preoccupied for the last couple of days, and in my….preoccupation, I have forgotten to ask the house elves to clean up a bit for you. But that is easily remedied.” She looked around; they were standing in a small parlor with a kitchen over to the left. She walked through the door to the back, and here was a small bedroom and a bathroom with a shower. She was quite pleased. Dust covers were over everything, and best of all there was a window facing the Forest in the bedroom, and another window in the parlor also facing the Forest. Her face shone up at Dumbledore.

“This is absolutely perfect. I can walk through the Forest, it’s isolated…. Dumbledore, this is magnificent!” She was grinning broadly.

“I am so glad. If you need to get rid of the bed, we can have the house elves move it.” He added helpfully.

“You know, I might try the bed out. It’s going to be strange for a while sleeping indoors, and not on the floor, but I think I’ll give it a go.” She looked out the window, not really wanting to elaborate. She could not discuss the choice she had made with him, not quite yet. She would know when the proper time was for that. She turned from the window, trying to keep her voice entirely casual. “And the other professors? Is McGonagall still about? Sprout? Flitwick?”

“Minerva is, thank Merlin, still with us. Hagrid, as you’ve seen; Flitwick is in excellent health for one so aged. And Madame Sprout is also still here, still cheerful.” Dumbledore smiled, but waited. She nodded.

“And Professor Snape. Is he still at Hogwarts, or has he moved on?” She was looking out the window again.

“No, no. Severus is still here. Though…he is currently unavailable.” He did not elaborate. He watched Esmeralda carefully. She turned to him, pulling off one of the dust covers over a chair under the parlor window.

“Oh. I suspect he’s on summer vacation with his family.” She folded the sheet carefully, her eyes not meeting Dumbledore’s.

“Well, no. I can’t really go into it right now. And he has no family outside of the school; he is a solitary man. But he is in good health.” Esmeralda finished folding the sheet, and looked directly at Dumbledore.

“Has he not been in good health.” Her hands stopped folding the sheets as she watched Dumbledore’s face.

“Well. Let us just say, my dear, that the last 6 months have been….tumultuous for Severus.” There was something about Dumbledore’s expression that alarmed Esmeralda. Finally she could not be indirect any longer.

“Albus. Is he all right.”

“Esmeralda. I am going to have to ask specifically for your patience. Believe me when I tell you that your worry is auspicious, but you must trust me where this subject is concerned. I must hold my counsel regarding Snape for the next two days. Please.” He walked over to Esmeralda and took both of her hands in his. “You may not be fully aware of how propitious it is that you have arrived here when you did. I can only tell you that I am very, very glad that you are here. Esmeralda.” He gripped her hands and his clear blue eyes looked steadily into her own. “We have some difficult days ahead of us. I am going to need your help. May I have your assistance?” His eyes bored into her face. She nodded, shaken by his serious demeanor.

“Yes. Yes, of course, Albus.” Her worry escalated, but she kept her anxiety to herself. She would give him 2 days. And after that, she would press him further. Her intuition had been correct. She was anxious, but very glad she had made the choice to come back to human ground.


Dumbledore had picked out his own protective talismans. Now they sat before him on one of the tables where their own ritual would be performed. His hand ran over each object in remembrance. Vishal’s wand, dark from age now; he did not tell Severus, he could not quite tell Severus out loud that one of the reasons he had not faced Vishal’s unraveling before his eyes was because of his own smouldering jealousy. He missed him, still. Here, his father’s spectacles….would he ever have the insight of his own father, dead for so long. And Minerva’s champagne flute. One of the loves of his life. He would never forget that night. He shook himself from his revery. Severus should be back any minute now. It was almost time. He had prepared the candles, the oil, the wine, the chalice. He had obtained his own ritual knife. But he knew their ritual would be twice as powerful as Voldemort’s. Voldemort had pledged nothing back to Severus, nothing that bound Severus doubly. Albus would create a cooperative, double-binding ritual, not a submissive, one way link. He was positive that their ritual would prevail. What he was anxious over was the anger, the rage of Voldemort. He knew the other wizard had been experimenting with ways to get through Hogwarts’ protective boundaries. His rage would fuel his magic and his craft, and it was more than possible that he would be able to sunder the castle’s spells momentarily. Albus went over, in his own mind, the host of spells and incantations, transfigurations and hexes he might need at a moment’s notice. And Snape’s expertise in potions would prove invaluable. They would need every device at their disposal this evening.


It was 6:00 pm. By Albus’ estimation they had 4 to 6 hours before impediments to Voldemort’s control on Snape would be rendered impotent. The chimes of the charms on his outer chambers rang, and he walked through the library, into his office, and then to the foyer door to let Snape inside.

He had brought the potions in a small, cloth-lined crate and he was wearing fresh robes, cleaned recently. He had bathed. Albus could see that his hair was still wet. The man looked nervous, but more purposeful than Dumbledore had seen him in many months. Without speaking, they both moved into the inner library. Dumbledore closed the door quietly. He had briefed McGonagall on Esmeralda’s presence as well as the possibility that Minerva might be needed later this evening. He had also asked her to prepare Pomfrey. He had also let her know that Admantia was setting up in Remus’ old quarters if she should need to find the dragon-keeper quickly. All had been readied.

“Severus.” He turned to the younger wizard. They had rehearsed the ritual thoroughly this morning. “You understand…I have strengthened the hexes and charms around this room in particular. I have left the final severing aspect of the ritual to the last minutes. He won’t know something is wrong until it is almost over and binding between us. But….there will be that brief few minutes, 10 – 15 minutes, when he could do irreparable damage. Do you accept this?”

Snape acknowledged his words with conviction.

“Yes. I accept this. Dumbledore….Albus….” his voice choked unexpectedly, watching the wizard. “Thank you. Thank you for everything.” Dumbledore watched him, somber.

“You would have done the same for me, my child.” And Snape knew it was true. “Now, where is your wand.” Snape handed it to him. Dumbledore placed it on the table by which Snape would stand. He placed his own wand on his own table. The couch had been moved to face the two tables. They stood, lining a runway in front of the couch. Dumbledore placed the crate of potion-containing spheres under his table. He went over to the windows and pulled the curtains closed, so that only a little of summer’s lasting evening light would enter the room.

“Are you ready.” Dumbledore had bathed himself, and had put on his own clean robes earlier.

“Yes.” Snape’s voice was clear in the hushed, darkened room. Albus drew himself up, and walked over to the front of the two tables, and placed himself where the tables created a natural aisle in front of the couch. Severus stood by the couch, ready. Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height, and picked up his wand. With great deliberation, he lit the candles on Severus’ table with his wand; there were three on each table, beeswax, dull gold in the dim light of the room. The candles Dumbledore had lit burned brightly, flickering and steady. The smell of them came to Severus, the rich smell of beeswax, and something else….something warming to the mind, rich, herbal, but subtle. It reminded him of a shy touch, a breath of a wind at dusk. Something given delicately, hidden to the physical world. Was this what the essence of magic smelled like, he wondered. Dumbledore’s voice was clear in the room.

“We two declare that we are bonding ourselves here, tonight; brother to brother, man to man, lover to lover. Our souls, our hearts, our bodies pledged to one another. We ask solemnly and strongly for the protection of the people who have loved us, and who we have loved in return.” Dumbledore walked slowly down the aisle in between the tables, running his fingers lightly over the edges of the tables as he walked. Dumbledore stood and waited by the couch. Severus walked over and waited where Dumbledore had just been. He picked up his own wand, and lit the candles on Albus’ side of the table. He placed his wand back on the table. He spoke into the quiet of the room, watching Dumbledore. He repeated the words of the ritual.

“We two declare that we are bonding ourselves here, tonight; brother to brother, man to man, lover to lover. Our souls, our hearts, our bodies pledged to one another. We ask solemnly and strongly for the protection of the people who have loved us, and who we have loved in return.” Severus walked down the aisle between the two tables, his fingertips running over the edges of the tables, and he stopped in front of Dumbledore.

Albus embraced Severus gently, and slowly Severus stepped into the embrace, and brought his arms up and around the older man. Severus closed his eyes and relaxed into Dumbledore. He was nervous, moderately tense, but for very different reasons this time. After the months of Voldemort’s abuse, being this close to Dumbledore worked like some kind of balm on his soul. The older wizard must have put something in his hair during his bath; it smelled like the candles, only it was much stronger. Severus could feel the nervous tension washing off of him as he breathed in the scent. Albus pulled his head away from Severus, and he paused, then he bent his head to the man and kissed him. Severus had no idea that this man’s lips could be this soft. The older man’s mouth tasted clean, like fresh mint. Dumbledore’s own calm demeanor helped quiet his anxiety. Albus was so composed, his energy so deep and gentle, that Severus could feel the knots of apprehension fading. As they kissed, he was not thinking of Sirius, or Esmeralda, or anyone else. His arousal came on slowly, like the changing of a tide. He thought only of Dumbledore.

They kissed carefully for several minutes. Severus moved his hands tentatively inside Albus’ robes. He was naked; Severus ran his hands over his ribcage, the wiry, white hair covering his belly. Albus’ skin was soft, not wrinkled. He ran his hands over the older man’s back and shoulders, the delicate skin at the small of his back. They were very tentative with one another. Albus’ mouth moved on him with delicacy and Severus responded. The smell from the candles and from Albus himself was working on him. There was some kind of herb, some kind of potent enchantment wound in the candles and in Albus, and his mind began to loosen. Dimly he was aware of the older wizard’s hands on his own longer ribcage, his smaller belly, his thigh bones. As the kiss deepened, Severus went into a place in his mind’s eye which he had been invited into gently; soft hands were on his, beckoning him in. He was aware of Albus’ hand on his erection, caressing him, and he watched inside of himself as this new place, a safe place, came into view.

He was standing by the water’s edge, and he had gone off the path. He was in mud, his trousers were wet, but he was no longer in the water. His feet were covered in muck, they seemed mired. But there were people on the path, people he recognized with a shock at the opening of his heart….his mother, his father, embracing; Hildy, his old house elf that had taught him a great many things out of love, not out of subservience; Sirius, even, laughing and dapper….an old instructor, Professor Montague, with whom he had corresponded, and who had encouraged him and had dialogues with him over rare ingredients….he pulled his feet out of the muck…it was sticky, but not binding. Part of his mind was fully aware of Albus’ hand on him, slow, steady, but not tantalizing, not teasing, just easy and regular. It felt very good, and he was glad it was taking so long. But the other part of his mind knew that the people on the path were a gift, a gift from the man against him, and though the water was deep and empty, the sweet smell of the earth and the people on the path were calling him more strongly. He was weak, but he moved out of the mud and up to the path. It was rocky under his bare feet, but the friends beckoned him. He could feel their warmth, like the heat of a hearth fire he had long forgotten.

Albus’ hand tightened around him, quickening; Severus’ eyes were closed, his head buried in the neck of the older wizard. The aroma of the man was all around him, the people were coming into view on the path; he was wet and cold, but the smell from the gentle, older wizard led him on, and the people reached out their hands towards him. He felt Dumbledore’s arm around his back, the love from the people on the path was palpable; he was walking faster, he couldn’t feel the pain from the rocks under his feet, there was nothing but incredible pleasure and the strong, elemental scent of the man against him, and he had touched them, touched his friends, his loved ones on the path, and that was the greatest gift of all.

He opened his eyes slowly; his heart was thudding, slowing down. Albus was putting the chalice back on the table. The robes of the wizard’s were warm against his cheek. The room solidified around him again, very slowly, and Severus opened his eyes and breathed deeply. The haze from the candles had permeated the room; he looked at Albus in the soft light. His eyes were dilated, but lightly. Severus kissed the side of his throat, and ran his hand over the wizard’s chest, pressing gently, feeling the softness of the man’s skin. He ran his fingers over Albus’ erection, cataloguing shape and feel before he took the older man in his hand.

Albus’ own eyes closed, and he pulled the younger man to him tightly. He could smell Vishal; see him, see his youthful face, his deep brown, almond eyes. They were in their old dormitory. The smell of the incense that Vishal burned daily to the Hindu deities was everywhere, his little altar in the corner of the room was over his left shoulder, behind both of them. His beautiful, full lips…the soft brown skin…his dark, pomaded hair…tears sprang to Vishal’s eyes, and he was gazing at Albus with such soft sadness that Albus burst into tears. He buried his head in Snape’s neck. Severus’ other hand came up and cradled the man’s head against him.

Albus reached out for Vishal’s hand and the wordless question hung in the air between the ghost of the young man, and the memory of the other young wizard. Albus’ eyes pleaded with Vishal, begging for forgiveness, forgiveness of his jealousy, his oversight, his guilt. Vishal took Albus’ hands in his, and pressed them together with his own in furious, speechless strength….the fingers of his right hand came up and caressed Albus’ jaw with incredible tenderness, and he tilted his head, and in Vishal’s expression was all of the forgiveness and love that Albus could ever hope for. He wept.

Severus’ fingers pressed into Albus’ neck gently as the older wizard shook against him; the release of his orgasm was calming him, and Dumbledore’s breathing began to return to normal. Severus replaced the chalice quietly. Neither of them said anything. Severus reached up and hesitantly wiped the tears from the older man’s face. Albus smiled. He gathered himself. The older wizard stood, and pulled his robes together loosely. He reached for the knife and the chalice. He beckoned for Severus to stand by him. He handed the knife to Snape. Snape took the proffered handle, and moved the tip very carefully against Albus’ left breastbone.

“This blood is the blood of my friend, my brother, my lover. With it, he binds himself to me, protecting me, loving me, but not controlling me. It is freely given.” Snape quickly sliced a shallow gash in the skin of his breastbone. Blood welled, and with the tip of his knife he gathered the blood and placed it in the chalice. Dumbledore took the knife, and wiped it with a cloth from the table. His own voice rumbled in the dimness of the room.

“This blood is the blood of my friend, my brother, my lover. With it, he binds himself to me, protecting me, loving me, but not controlling me. It is freely given.” Dumbledore drew a quick, sharp arc over Snape’s breastbone, and took the blood and placed it in the chalice with the other fluids. He placed the knife down on the table and turned to Severus. The younger wizard had started to tremble slightly in the room; everything in the dimness had begun to take on sharper dimensions….he could see the light from the candles shimmering too clearly, still taste the flavor of Dumbledore’s mouth in his own too strongly. He was harshly aware of his own breathing, the beat of his heart, the flex of tendons under the fragile skin of his hand. Saying goodbye to all of this….was harder than he had thought. His eyes began to glimmer in the light. He grabbed Dumbledore’s wrist without thinking. Dumbledore looked at him, his gaze entirely serious, and he paused, thinking better of something, but then Albus reached over and kissed him softly on the mouth, so lightly and carefully, like the softness of a moth’s flight, that Severus stood stunned for several seconds.

“Goodbye.” He whispered to Albus. Albus raised his eyebrows.

“My boy. There is always still, hope.” He raised the chalice to Snape’s lips. “Remember the potion spheres; remember your wand, remember your own power. Remember what we planned. One never knows how things will turn out.” He smiled warmly at Severus. Speaking more formally, he reached for his wand and placed it in his robe pocket. Snape did the same with his own.

“The love here tonight, the protection offered and given, the exchange of physical fluids and our undying pledge here to one another, replaces all other bonds as of this moment. I, Albus Dumbledore, a free man, make this bond with this man, Severus Snape. ” Snape drank the proferred chalice. He took the chalice, and repeated the words of Dumbledore.

“The love here tonight, the protection offered and given, the exchange of physical fluids and our undying pledge here to one another, replaces all other bonds as of this moment. I, Severus Snape, a free man, make this bond with this man, Albus Dumbledore.” As Dumbledore drank, they could both hear the oncoming thundering noise, like a giant rip appearing in the ceiling above them. Snape’s blood went completely cold. Albus finished drinking calmly, and squeezed Severus’ hand.

“So it begins.” He said quietly. “Snape!” his voice changed, and his presence expanded to fill the room. “Your wand! Protect yourself! Remember the plan!” The ripping turned into a weird, unearthly, disharmonic roar. It sounded like the very air was gashing open, and in a way, as they both watched in horror, that is what was happening. Voldemort’s hazy, green light proceeded him, the gash stretched in the side of the library, up above their heads to their left, but it wasn’t the physical wall of the library separating. It was more like time or some other viscous substance was warping, and the madman was stepping through it as if it was a portal of some kind; the portal’s holes were made up of rippling green and white light…..Snape’s skin prickled as the pulsing magical energy that it took to maintain the portal filled the room. Snape lunged for two of the potion balls. Albus had apparated to the other side of the room. Snape lobbed one of the balls towards Voldemort, and seeing a moving target, the man’s snakelike head and gleaming reptilian eyes had turned too fast towards the younger wizard, and before Snape could get behind the couch or get his wand up, Voldemort’s wand was on him and the insane wizard’s high-pitched, enraged voice had screamed, “Crucio!” The spell caught him squarely in the back and his world turned into red, spiking agony…the pain was modulating, changing…there was so much that he was screaming, writhing on the floor.

Albus bellowed, “obstructo crucio!” and he crumpled, but he couldn’t move. There was something wrong with the connection between his body and his brain. He tried to move his head up, but all he could manage was a horrible trembling that barely kept him from collapsing on the floor.

He heard the two wizards fighting in earnest now, though. He knew his time was up. Everything around him slowed to a halt; his eyes vaguely made out the colorful pattern of blues and reds in the Indian carpet he was kneeling upon; he could smell the snuffed candles and his own fear in the sweat that drenched him. But most of all he could hear the two wizards screaming and bellowing spells and curses above him. He finally could lift his head.

Dumbledore had transfigured a book into a rolling, warping silver worm that had wrapped itself around Voldemort furiously. The worm transformed and roiled around the wizard, never allowing itself to be fully physically solid. Voldemort screamed in frustration, and finally transformed it into a dull, heavy chain that clanked loudly around his feet as the transfiguration lost power. The potions Snape had lobbed had started hissing loudly underneath Voldemort’s feet, their spray finally finding the delicate tissues of the wizard’s nose and eyes, and momentarily distracted by the spell he had to throw to disable the potions, Dumbledore apparated and reapparted with a loud crack to his right side; Albus transfigured a table into a gigantic phoenix, and the enraged, garnet and gold bird flung itself on Voldemort’s eyes and face, its talons digging for purchase. Voldemort screamed a spell, and a dementor, gigantic, at least 12 feet high, bore down on Snape. Snape could still not move and watched, his muscles spasming as he tried to operate his knees, as the creature moved over him, whispering like death itself. Dumbledore screamed “Oblivio Incantatum!” and the dementor faded like smoke, but Voldemort had apparated over to the other side of the room, blood streaming down his face.

“My….property….my….fucking….property…you meddling bastard….” Voldemort was breathing hard, and Dumbledore was ghastly gray. “You will truly live… regret this, you stupid, foolish old man……” The gash had opened up behind Voldemort, and somehow the wizard was being compelled into it….Snape thought it must be a temporary spell, maybe it was sucking energy from the madman….Voldemort sent a lightening bolt of pure fury into the room, but it went wild, and struck the couch. Snape covered his eyes under the table, and then Riddle was gone. The rip in the ether had repaired itself as if it had never occurred. Was Dumbledore all right?

“Albus?” Could he even speak? “Albus?” he started to yell. “Albus!” A hand was on his back, and he felt a weight sit down heavily next to his side. Albus turned him over on his back.

“I’m so sorry…I can’t move my legs…” Dumbledore looked at him closely. Snape could see that the older man was enormously fatigued, his lips were pale. Albus’ eyes were filled with worry, but then his expression changed remarkably as he looked at the immobile man.

“Severus, you’re alive. You’re alive.” Dumbledore’s hand moved Snape’s hair out of his eyes very tenderly, where he lay immobile on the floor, and he started to laugh softly, and then Severus started to laugh, as well, amazement flooding him despite the fact that his body was on dull fire, not responding to his brain’s commands. Albus was alive. He was alive. They both sat on the floor, exhausted, crumpled, but alive. The best joke ever.

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