Summary: After Tara’s death what if Giles found out the Devon Coven couldn’t help Willow? Who could/would help Willow pull herself together?
AN: Post Tara’s death, black magic killing spree. A side-story after Season 6. Mostly canon until I specify so.
AN: Post OotP. Middle of Sixth year.
…ooO What If? Ooo...
Rupert Giles stared at the serene-looking middle-aged woman across the table.
“Are you sure Clare?”
“As sure as mortals can be about things such as magic.” The woman, Clare Fitzpatrick, shrugged. “The dark magic she absorbed is part of her, blood and bone. You more than most that some magicks leave a taint that cannot be removed by any means.” Clare hesitated. “She needs what we cannot give her Rupert. She needs acceptance, time to heal, but most of all training to control and use what is within, and without, her physical form. We can provide the first three, but not the last.”
Giles nodded, absorbing the words from his old friend. After some time an idea came to his forebrain.
“There is someone else who can, or would know who could.”
Clare Fitzpatrick glanced up with interest, her eyes widening, her lips parted in shock.
“You are going to contact one of them Rupert? Are you sure? They don’t like Dark Magicks.”
“Not all of them are intolerant Clare.”
The head of the Devon Coven was skeptical but didn’t say so.
Hermione Granger glanced around the Great Hall. The entire school was subdued from staff to students. Ron was poking at his mashed potatoes half-heartedly. Even the Slytherins were not looking for trouble. The battle at the Ministry had drained the life from everyone striking home the point that the Death Eaters were active elements in Wizarding Society - sooner or later the conflict would become full blown, tearing families and friends apart just like it did twenty years ago.
She bit her lip struggling to suppress the tears that thought evoked. People were going to die like Harrys parents, and Sirus, and Cedric.
The soft rustling sound of beating wings interrupted her morbid thoughts.
A post owl! For who? Mail was normally delivered at breakfast. It had to be very urgent or serious to be delivered in the middle of the day. Perhaps an urgent message asking for help or to report an attack, or death!
She looked up to the Head Table and saw her thoughts reflected in her teachers faces as they looked towards the Headmaster.
Severus Snape heard the familiar wing flaps of an owl but didn’t look up from his plate. It had to be another attack, probably reported by Shacklebolt or Tonks. Or a request from a high-level Ministry flunkey to attend a press conference to reassure the wizarding populace.
His hand clenched around his fork so hard his knuckles gleamed.
It was never enough. It would never be enough.
Some days he wondered why he bothered, why he put himself through this agony. It would be so much easier just to let go, to run and hide, to give in to his baser urges…
A soft hoot interrupted his morbid thoughts.
The owl mail was for him.
Mechanically he removed the letter from the owl and fled it some scraps from his plate before studying the item.
Ordinary parchment. He ran his fingertips across the wax seal and raised an eyebrow intrigued, despite himself. This was unexpected. The seal was keyed to his magical signature. If anyone other than one Severus Snape attempted to open it the key spells would charm the letter to burn to ashes. A heavy bit of magic. For a message that required this amount of security the parties involved would ordinarily meet in person.
He only had two possible correspondents who would require such levels of security - Death Eaters or Order members. But neither of them would correspond to Him by owl.
Intrigued despite himself he broke the seal and unfolded the parchment to read the message.
Quick black eyes scanned the scrawled writing growing colder and stonier with each breath. Deft fingers refolded the parchment and tucked it away into an inner pocket of his voluminous black robes before he looked up and saw the curious faces of his colleagues. He ignored the silent inquiry and turned to the Headmaster.
“Albus, I need to take a leave of absence. For how long I am not certain. I will have to owl you after I find out myself.”
Albus Dumbledore frowned. As far as he knew Severus did not have other commitments other than the Order and his double-agent role amongst the Death Eaters. He raised an inquiring brow and was confused by the slight shake of the head.
“This is a personal matter. A debt of honor.”
“More important than Hogwarts?” Than Harry Potter? Was the implied words.
Severus smiled grimly. “More important than anyone alive or dead.” Including your precious James Potter and his fucking Marauders.
Minerva McGonagall frowned at the implicit undertones of the conversation.
“Severus, you cannot be serious? To just up and run off in the middle of the school year?!”
The Potions Master smiled thinly. “Oh but I am Minerva. The debt I owe was incurred over weeks, not minutes. And I am still paying it off. By answering now I can pay back a greater portion of what I owe. And still owe far more than I owe anyone else.”
Translation: This is far more important to me than your precious Golden Boy.
Feeling the battling tension Filius Flitwick raised the more immediate aspect of his absence. “What about your classes?”
Severus shrugged. “My notes are in my office desk. It is keyed to the headmaster. Just follow the theoretical aspects of the lesson plans.” His lip curled. “Conduct a practical class at your own risk, especially if it is the sixth-year Gryffindor-Slytherin class.” His face smoothened out into his usual composed mask. “If you find a replacement Potions Professor he or she can use my lesson plans. I’ll make arrangements to have my belongings packed over the Winter Break.”
With that ultimatum he swiveled on one leather-shod foot and glided away black robes billowing.
“Well, I never!” Minerva huffed. “The Nerve of that Slytherin!” It was the politest insult the Transfiguration Instructor could come up with on such short notice.
The Head Table broke into speculative conversations but Albus Dumbledore remained silent. This was unexpected and troublesome.
Someone else had a hold on Severus, someone whom Severus did not resent, whom he respected, trusted, and admired enough to up and leave in the middle of an escalating conflict - abandoning both his masters, Albus Dumbledore and Tom Riddle.
How had this happened without him sensing it? Albus didn’t want to push... Severus was an experienced trained wizard who did not really trust him but saw him as a better alternative to the Dark Lord winning the war. If Albus pushed he would lose his key spy among the Death Eaters. He had already lost Sirus and Harry’s trust. It would not be prudent to act without more information.
Severus Snape appeared in the middle of an empty field with a pop. Without wasting anytime he adjusted his traveling cloak and straddled his broomstick. He did not trust Albus not to send an Order member to track his movements.
Seconds later he was up in the star lit sky flying over trees and fields.
Half an hour later he landed outside a large Tudor manor. A quick cleansing spell removed traces of travel stains from his clothes and shoes before he moved towards a side door.
It opened within seconds casting a pool of golden light around his form.
He nodded politely at the plump graying woman clad in a long hunter green dress secured by a knotted twine belt. She looked like Minerva but Severus knew she had to be much younger. Muggles aged faster than witches and wizards.
She took in his appearance quickly and moved to one-side.
Severus responded to the unspoken invitation. Smart Muggle.
Once over the threshold she spoke quickly.
“My name is Clare Fitzpatrick, just call me Clare. Giles had to make a trip to London. He’ll be back tomorrow afternoon. He said he wanted you to meet her as soon as you arrived.” She hesitated. “She’s in a bad way. Living on the Hellmouth didn’t help. Her inadequate training, the constant battle, losing friends… Her lovers’ death was the last straw that sent her over the edge. She’s retreated from the world now. She doesn’t want to live.”
Severus smiled grimly. “Then I’ll just have to make her see differently.”
Clare nodded feeling reassured. This one had gone through the furnace and come through mostly intact. If anyone could help Willow Rosenberg he could.
“Then follow me.”
Willow Rosenberg stared at the cracks in the plaster ceiling; a spider web of fine lines that would expand to encompass the whole plane. How long would it be before it gave way? Once she would have tried to calculate that probability and determine how to reduce the damage it could cause. Now she couldn’t be bothered.
The darkness of the room receded as the door creaked open.
“Willow?” It was the nice Miss Fitzpatrick. “You have a guest, a friend of Ruperts. He’s here to see you.”
Willow didn’t bother to protest. It was probably another equivalent of a magical doctor to hem and haw over her before proclaiming her as irreparably tainted.
The door closed sinking the room into the familiar darkness.
The familiar surge of magical energy before a soft glowing light filled the room.
“You feel that nothing else in the world can go wrong. You feel as though the whole world doesn’t matter. You feel that nothing else can touch you, hurt you.” The masculine intruder spoke in silky smooth tones, was softly seductive with his clipped British accent. “You feel sorry for lesser mortals who have never gone through what you do. You feel as though they could never, will never, understand the pain you’ve gone through.” The voice sharpened with biting scorn. “Well get over it girl. You aren’t the first witch to be seduced by the Dark Arts and you won’t be the last.” Strong fingers grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him.
Willow struggled for a brief instant before going limp squeezing her eyes shut.
Severus felt a surge of satisfaction. She wasn’t as distant as she pretended, as she wanted to be. She still cared. Her will was still mostly intact. Rupert cared too much to be as harsh as he had to be to help this witch so Severus would return the favor by helping her as Rupert once helped him - out of the abyss.
His tone softened but it was still stern. “Yes, you screwed up. That is over and done with. The question is: What are you going to do about it now?”
He didn’t expect her to answer and she didn’t so he filled the silence with his story, baring his soul with his past mistakes and present flaws. What he had done and what he was doing. His present struggles, trying to walk his path.
“It is human to mess up Willow. The trick is to move past the mess and make amends the best way you can. You may never feel it is enough, you may never do enough, but the point is you are doing something about it.”
Unable to resist he brushed the tangled strands of dull red hair away from the pale oval face. He had seen Muggle photos of her, read about her character and experiences from Rupert’s perspective. This was a strong witch and she would pull through this if Severus had any say in the matter.
“Think about what I said Willow. I don’t know you except from what Rupert told me but I sense you are not a quitter.”
Just as quietly as he entered, Severus Snape left the room taking the light with him.
Willow opened her eyes and stared at the re-darkened ceiling. She didn’t know his name. She didn’t know what he looked like. But she knew just about everything else about him. And she knew he was right. Willow Rosenberg was not a quitter.
Severus closed the door behind him and walked a few meters down the hallway before leaning against the wall feeling utterly exhausted.
“You were rather harsh on her.”
Severus didn’t bother opening his eyes.
“Just as you were with me Ripper.”
A slow smile curled his lips before he opened his eyes and raised his arms.
“Hello Rupert. It’s so good to see you in person.”
“And you Severus. And you.”
The two men embraced each other tightly, holding onto one another, absorbing the measure of peace and security they gave each other.
Several long minutes later they separated patting each other on the back.
“You ought to be glad I didn’t handle her the way you did me when we first met Ripper.” Severus teased the older man.
“Oh yes. Rescuing you from some of your magical policemen and then beating the shit out of you as punishment.” Giles laughed.
Severus sobered. “I was thinking of the other time.”
Giles sobered as well. His actions, saving the young Death Eater, then beating him instilled a sense of respect and obligation in the young wizard. Subsequent meetings consisted of Giles smashing every preconceived notion of pureblooded supremacy by demonstrating knowledge, smarts and magical skill that no wizard, even a dark wizard possessed - skills that the Muggle community used consistently beating wizarding Dark Arts. Giles had revealed some of his tainted rebellious past, running with Ethan Raynes, using chaos magicks, Dark Arts, raising Eyghon, causing the deaths of like-minded friends by getting in too deep.
It had been Giles to whom Severus Snape turned to for help when he could no longer tolerate the atrocities Voldemort committed in the name of pureblood supremacy. Giles told Severus of Hitler and how he was taken down. Of true demons and how one girl was called from the Muggle population as Slayer to protect the world. Giles guided the younger wizard into evaluating his options with true cold-blooded Slytherin calculation before making the decision of most benefit: to go to his old Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, and offer to work as a double agent on his behalf.
In the aftermath of Voldemort’s first defeat and the celebrations Severus had wept in the Watchers arms for Lily Potter, for the first person who had wanted to be his friend without any hidden price tag or agenda.
“Do you miss her?” Giles asked.
“I can’t forget her.” Severus admitted. “The boy has his mothers eyes. Every time--.”
“Don’t.” Giles interrupted sternly. “Lily Potter made her choice and died. You are not responsible for that. You cannot control the world no matter how hard you try.” He smiled wryly. “No one can, not even the Powers. That’s the greatest strength and weakness of freewill.”
Severus heaved a sigh but nodded. He couldn’t control three Gryffindor brats who were his students. How could he control the world?
The next morning a private breakfast was interrupted by a pleasant, unexpected shock.
“Willow!” Giles put down his teacup with a clatter before rising to hug the young woman.
He was reassured by the strength of her embrace. He looked into her eyes and saw the shadows in the mossy depths.
“I’m not going to ask if you’re all right because you are clearly not.”
The redhead smiled wryly and allowed her mentor-paternal figure to sit her down and make up a plate of scrambled eggs and toast for her.
She didn’t speak as she worked through the meal with grim determination.
Severus studied the young witch through lowered lashes though he restrained the habit to make a snide comment.
Giles bit his tongue as he sipped his tea. As much as he longed to hug Willow, to reassure her that everything would be fine, that he would fix everything for her, Giles knew he couldn’t make such promises.
The witch broke the uneasy silence.
“I never want this to happen again Giles. I need training to make sure of that.”
“That would mean a great deal of training to ensure you have the required control and balanced state of mind.” Giles noted.
Willow closed her eyes for a brief second. She could not go home, see her friends for a long time, if ever. She couldn’t face them anyways, not after what she had done. She bit her lip and met hazel eyes squarely.
“Whatever it takes Giles. I’m no good like this, to anyone including myself.”
Severus studied the young witch speculatively.
“I know someone who may be able to help Miss Rosenberg with her recovery and training.”
Allegra Mazzarini sipped her peppermint tea. It was a Muggle product beefed up with a dab of Devon pixie honey. She smiled enjoying the heat of the afternoon sun. It wasn’t as warm as her native Italy but it was a lot better than England.
“Mother Mazzarini, there are some visitors here to see you.”
Allegra glanced up at Ellen Hawthorne, one of the novice witches in her training group. She frowned as she went over her mental calendar. She wasn’t expecting any guests. She normally met a few friends from the Wizarding and Muggle communities away from the Home. But it was rude to turn guests away without reason.
“I’ll see them in the Front Room in ten minutes.” She decided referring to the primary salon off the main foyer. It was innocuous to pass as Muggle with touches of magic only a witch or wizard would recognize.
Mulling over the unknown guests the elder witch retreated to a restroom and freshened up before moving to greet her surprise visitors.
Her face was composed into its usual reserved mask framed by graying black hair pulled into a neat chignon.
She froze at the sight of the figure that rose to greet her. He hadn’t seen him in more than twenty-five years. Not since he cut her out of his life in order to serve that tainted, mockery of a wizard, Riddle.
“Hello Nana.” His voice had deepened and settled into a lower baritone. He looked nothing like Sebastian Snape. In fact he looked more like his grandfather, her long dead husband Matteo, than his father.
Allegra was nothing if not adaptable.
“Severus.” This was a greeting and inquiry in one.
She was glad to see he understood the nuance and stepped forward to brush his cheeks against hers, just as he did when he was a little boy visiting her.
A hint of relief crept in and Allegra smiled feeling more at ease.
“Severus, would you care to introduce me to your friends?” She raised an arch brow.
“Of course,” Severus replied with aplomb. “Nana, this is Rupert Giles and Willow Rosenberg. Rupert, Willow, this is my maternal grandmother Allegra Mazzarini.” He hesitated. “Nana, Rupert and Willow are…” He hesitated.
“Muggles who practice magic. Untrained Muggleborns.” Allegra murmured. “I have met quite a few in Salem. They tend to use Wiccan magic as a foundation since they don’t have wands for focus.” She laughed seeing the shock on all three faces. “Really Severus I may be a pure-blood but I’m not an ignorant bigot.” Her expression became more serious. “That is one of the reasons I left Europe. I could not tolerate the way wizarding society was progressing. The Ministry was being more selective and the way students were being selected, the way Muggles were obliviated when they found out, the way knowledge was being denied and suppressed... That way is asking for trouble in the long run Severus.” She frowned disapprovingly. “The way you went about to get knowledge is not acceptable either.” She sighed. “This is an imperfect world and we mortals simply do the best we can.”
A moment of silence as all four processed their thoughts.
Allegra was the first to break the silence.
“Now, as happy as I am to see my grandson, I know there has to be a reason for him to bring friends along…” She trailed off questioningly.
Giles decided to speak up. “You are right. We need help.” And he launched into his story briefly touching on his relationship with Severus Snape and Willow Rosenberg. Allegras expression grew graver at each bit of information she received. Occasionally she studied the younger witch with piercing gray eyes nodding thoughtfully. At the end of it all she only had one thing to say.
“Willow Rosenberg can stay with me as an apprentice, a visiting witch. I will teach her best I can but in return I need time; time in which she cannot have any contact with the outside world. She needs time to study herself to determine her weaknesses and strengthen them. Time to learn control and alternate methods to work her magic.”
Giles glanced at Willow who nodded solemnly.
“It’ll be okay Giles. I’m better now and Mrs. Mazzarini is right.”
“Good. The first rule of the Home is relationships. We are all bound to each other. You will call the learning witches Sister, the teaching witches Aunt, the teaching witch you are assigned to Mother, and the ruling Circle witches Grandmother.” Allegra stressed. “For now call me Mother.”
Willow nodded solemnly. “It has been very long since anyone has been my Mother.” She whispered.
Allegra’s stern face softened. “You will not be alone. You will never be alone as long as the Circle lives.” She glanced at the men. “Severus, as much as I’d love to catch up this is not the time. But an owl or two would not go amiss.” She smiled slightly. “I would like to know what is happening in your life, good or bad.”
Severus nodded and glanced at Giles who nodded reluctantly. Both men bid their farewells and left the Home grounds.
Willow watched them through a window through teary eyes. The little girl inside her wanted to scream and run after them, to beg them to take her with them, to go home.
Allegra studied the young witch. It was an obvious testimony to her strength that she managed to get this far without losing herself. Yes, this one had steel, blunted and warped but still strong. It simply needed to be re-forged and honed before being tested by the Powers That Be.
TBC… At some point in the future.
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