"That is interesting; I'd have never guessed that potion does not taste the same as it smells. My parents always used to pull it out whenever one of my siblings had a cold. I was so glad that they couldn't use it on me." Mistress Brown smiled.
Severus looked down at his fingernails. He had run out of things to tell her, and they were only twelve minutes into their session.
"Have you thought much about brewing potions lately?" Mistress Brown asked. "You haven't brewed any since your punishment."
"My enslavement." He believed in calling a spade a spade, even if that meant correcting- damn. The burning began, and he didn't suppose he would be able to go out to the waiting room to ask Master for his touch.
"Yes." She acknowledged. "What do you feel when you think about brewing potions?"
Severus flexed his fingers. The faint scars were visible near the knuckles. "The first thing I think of is how easily I mightn't have fingers any longer, and how that would affect brewing potions; I am very fortunate to have them still."
"Optimism is good. I can't say that I often see that from you. Very good." Mistress Brown smiled smally, and wrote something down in her notebook. "But what do you feel when you think about it?"
"I cannot say that I feel much. That was such a dry point in my life, teaching that class. I've no desire to go back there." Granted, if Severus had been able to avoid all the pain and suffering he had gone through to stay a Potions Master, surely he would have.
"Do you think you could brew a potion now?" Mistress Brown asked him. "If I pulled Wormwood, spider venom, and flint powder out of my desk and asked you to brew a potion for me, could you?"
Severus eyed her desk carefully. It did not look like she could be housing an entire storeroom in such a small desk. It was not as if it could be equipped with wizardspace.
"It was a hypothetical question," she clarified. "I haven't got any potion ingredients onhand. And could you please try to remember what we said about looking at me when we talk?"
He did remember. A healthy person looked at another when they spoke to them, or even mantained eye contact. Severus could only look at his hands or the floor without stammering. He had been trained to never look in the eyes of someone Above him. He knew now that he could break that rule without breaking a law, and that it didn't have to cause him guilt or pain. That didn't, however, make it easily doable.
He tried to focus on the fishbowl behind Mistress Brown's head. "I would not be able to brew that potion for you, Mistress Brown; that combination of ingredients could cause a caustic and potentially lethal explosion."
She strained to keep a straight face. "I see. However, if they didn't-"
"-They do. They always do."
"-would you be able to brew me the potion. Would you be able to walk up to the cauldron and other tools, and be able to cut up the ingredients, measure them, and whatnot?"
It was painfully obvious the woman knew only just enough about the art to get her into trouble. "I imagine. I understand the theory, and am phsyically capable of doing so."
"You misunderstand. When I ask if you could, I know you can phsyically. But could you emotionally, mentally? Do you think you could take it back up without a nervous breakdown?"
He imagined his hand reached out, curling around the handle of the knife. He could see himself bringing the ingredient closer, and bring the blade of the knife down. But before he could slice, his hand began to shake wildly, rendering him unable to make a percise cut.
Severus brought his eyes back down to his lap. "Does my master wish for me to?"
"Now, you know I never divulge what your master and I talk about." She lightly said. "I don't tell him anything you say without your permission, and vice-versa."
Severus doubted how truthful she was about what she told Master. Not that it concerned him; he was an open book to the man.
"I could try." He exhaled deeply, trying to keep himself from shaking, as he had noticed he had started to do. Why did the idea of brewing a potion bother him? It shouldn't. It was actually a very calming activity. "If my master asked me to, of course I would try. I would do it, if he asked me."
She spent a few moments writing something down. "But if you hadn't been asked, and just had the oppertunity to do it for fun, you wouldn't?"
He could never recall brewing potions as 'fun', unless Lily were involved. "No."
"Your master expressed a concern to me that you don't do enough because you want to. And yes, he did consent to my sharing this data." She explained. "His exact words were that you 'don't have a life'. How do you feel about that?"
How was he supposed to feel about that. "My life belongs to my master. I haven't done something because I wanted to in many years. All of my motivation has been behind owners, behind the Dark Lord, behind Master Dumbledore." He rarely spoke of the latter man; it felt odd calling him 'master', though the elder had been in a variety of ways.
"There are times that I do things I'd like to do," Severus continued. "If I am home without Master, and wonder if I would like to read or stroke Gik, it is a choice I am free to make. Those moments used to make me anxious; now I either hardly notice they are there, or feel quite liberated. It is difficult to explain to someone who always has freedom of choice."
"There aren't any hobbies though that you would like to pick up? Friends you would like to reconnect with?" She pestered.
Mistress Hermione had tried to teach him how to knit many months ago, saying it was a relaxing hobby. All he could do was worry that whatever she was teaching him to make wasn't something his master could use, like a hat, scarf, or sock. The knitting lessons hadn't lasted long.
"It seems I've poor ability to make and maintain friends," Severus said dryly. "I once had a pet spider at the Monsters."
She leaned forward, obviously interested in this new developement of knowing Severus' psyche. "Oh? Tell me about it."
"The Monster smashed it."
It wasn't that Severus disliked Mistress Brown. Sure, he disliked everything she wanted him to talk about, he disliked how she wanted to discuss his feelings. He disliked how she wanted to discuss his past, but disliked moreso how she wanted to discuss his future. He disliked her nervous habit of picking at her stockings. However, as a person, he was sure she was wonderful; he liked her better when he wasn't confined to her office. It did not escape him that she was paid to care about him.
Still, Master paid for these expensive therapy sessions out of pocket. Britain's healthcare system that applied to everyone else didn't apply for slaves, just as it did not apply for dogs, Hippogriffs, or owls. Severus had to work to make his therapy a success, not only to help himself, but to make sure his master's money was not being wasted.
And it wasn't. When Severus applied himself, he could see marked differences in things. He did not always notice the little things himself, but when his master mentioned them, he found them to be true. He no longer shook like a leaf in the bath, and was even coherent enough in the water to bathe himself. He still loathed them, but no longer thought to evade one by hiding things, or distracting his master elsewhere. When Master got angry, he was able to realise that the anger was not directed at him, or if it was, that he would not be locked in the closet or deprived of his next meal.
Still, the changes that Mistress Brown asked him to make sometimes seemed enormous, impossible, and even made him ill to think about. The things she asked him to talk about were things that he had put in the back of his mind, and had intended to keep there. He knew she only made things difficult to make his life easier, but he didn't want his life to feel too easy; it was then that something always went wrong.
"That went by fast." Master remarked as they stepped out onto the pavement. He began swinging his hands in unison, chatting amiably. "They actually had some newer magazines in the waiting room to look at, ones that weren't about Muggle celebrities and nonsense."
Master only liked the gardening and health magazines, the ones that applied in the slightest to his life. He, like Severus, had little use for the celebrities of Muggle technology. "I noticed."
Master stopped at a fish-and-chips cart, and began a transaction with the foreign man who owned it. "It went well, don't you think?" He asked, passing Severus' cardboard basket of fish, chips, and vinegar to him.
Severus waited for his master to begin walking to respond. "If it went well for you, I am happy." They spent two hours at Mistress Brown's a week - one session for Master, and one for Severus. It was clear that Master's sessions were helping him. The circles under his eyes were not so obvious since he had tucked his terrible memories away in a vial, and actually getting sleep. He seemed calmer, and got noticeably fewer headaches. He seemed happier, all around.
"What happened in yours?" Master asked as they walked around a large crowd of tourists dressed in Union Jack clothing. "I mean, if you don't mind me asking."
Severus looked down at the chips, and forced one into his mouth. The salty flavour filled his mouth; his stomach convulsed as a reaction. He felt his gag reflexes coming into play, trying to keep him from swallowing it, but he was well trained at ignoring them, and swallowed the chip whole.
He coughed. "She asked me to do something each day that frightens me. Nothing of great significance, and it can be the same thing each day, but one thing nevertheless." He held up another chip. "I began eating my food before you did; that is not illegal, nor have you asked me to refrain from doing so. I'm not comfortable with it, however."
Master just nodded, not saying anything for a few moments. "That's good. I can see where that will help you. Just don't do anything stupid, all right? Like, I know jumping off the roof in your human form might scare you, but don't do it."
"I'm hardly suicidal." Severus didn't appreciate the implication, but didn't say anything; his master was just using an example. Surely he knew Severus would never take his life; it was not his to take. "I intend on making minor decisions without your consult, or perhaps taking a shower."
"Okay. We talked a lot about the trial, you know. The Malfoys, and how much I adore them." Master tossed a burnt chip into a nearby rubbish bin. "She doesn't get why it's important for me to have Lucius punished. She thinks I am bitter, and angry."
That sounded like a fair assessment. After all Master Malfoy did, Master had every right to be bitter and angry. "I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is not as if you want him to suffer a cruel, unusual punishment; you want him to atone for his crimes, even if the Wizengamot thinks that he can atone for it through something as simple as community service."
"Exactly." Master deeply exhaled. He glanced sideways at Severus. "So what do you think? Do you think he should be punished? What do you really think, not just what you think I want you to say."
Severus had mulled over that topic quite a bit in the last few weeks. "I think he should be punished. People who committed far less heinous crimes are punished for what they do. His sentence, I do not enjoy thinking about. It will be slavery or Azkaban. I hope Azkaban."
Master stopped, and not to throw his rubbish away. "You disagree with the slavery punishment."
Severus continued walking, and waited for his master to catch up to speak, "I am not going to speak on whether I deserved it or not on a personal level - unless you ask me to - because that is a different matter. However, what I went through was painful, sadistic, and mind-altering. I'm not sure anyone has the right to hand that out as punishment." Speaking against slavery made his forehead burn, but he gritted his teeth and continued. "Master Malfoy being broken is quite different than many Death Eaters who became slaves. He is regal, and used to being pampered. To see him grovel I think might be painful for even Mistress Ginny."
"I think she's already surprised by feelings of compassion. But they won't last long, I'm afraid. There aren't a ton of witnesses left to indict Malfoy." Master frowned. "Most of them are dead, in Azkaban, or slaves."
Severus made a point not to wonder what had happened to the other Death Eaters made as slaves. He had a feeling they were not as lucky as he had been.
"Shouldn't Mistress Ginny and yourself make excellent witnesses?" Severus tried to help. "And I was an insider to so much - if what I recall is true, a slave administered with Veritaserum is permitted to be called to the stand." He had witnessed Master Malfoy killing, torturing, sodomizing, burning, groveling at the Dark Lord's feet. He had heard Master Malfy brag on the diary ocassion that nearly killed students, on numerous occasions. He knew things that could almost guarantee his conviction.
"I know, but I'd never ask you to do that." They neared their Apparition point. "You aren't comfortable at a Weasley get-together - you'd never be comfortable talking about Voldemort to the Wizengamot."
It wasn't about being comfortable. It was about doing what was right. That was something Severus had not often chose to do in his past life, but he wanted to do it now. "It would help you, but more importantly, it would make sure Master Malfoy doesn't go free. I think I can handle being uncomfortable for an hour. We could consider it my brave thing for the day." He glanced sideways at his master. "You aren't going to let me do it."
Master sighed. "Well, I'm not going to stop you."
Harry frowned as he looked over the parchment. He felt like he spent every evening poring over a book, or working on writing something.
This was far more important than any report or dissertation, however. As an Auror, Harry's life would repeatedly be put into danger. The spells he dodged out on the practise field were harmless, but someday they would turn from Stupefy to blasts of green light. Was he taking this job as a reckless move? Absolutely not. He was skilled in Defense, and becoming better. Most Aurors lived full lives; Moody and Tonks had been the exception.
As a father, he had a certain responsibility towards Teddy. It wasn't enough to feed, clothe him, and love him; there were other things he needed to do. He had tried to create a will when he had first brought Teddy home a couple years ago, but when he found out that he would actually have to hire a solictor and go through a time-consuming legal procress, he had irresponsibly let the matter drop.
In case something happened to Harry, he needed to make sure Teddy was safe, and loved. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had stepped up and agreed to take in Teddy as their own if he were unfortunate enough to becoime orphaned twice. Harry had tried to reason with them - they hardly needed another child to raise - but they had admonnished him, telling him that it was what family did. Harry supposed they knew more about family than he did, and hadn't argued. They were young enough to see him through not only Teddy's childhood, but most of his life. They were stable, and Harry's idea of perfect parents. In a way, he was in no position to say 'no'.
Severus appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "You wished to see me, Master?"
Haarry quickly banished the legal papers to his desk upstars. He patted the sofa cushion next to him. "Yeah. Sit down."
Severus sat where directed. His thin, knobby legs stuck out awkwardly from his nightshirt. The large burned patch on his calf was starting to whiten, but the hair follicles there were permanently damaged.
He bit his lip. "Is there something I can do for you, Master?"
Harry looked up to meet Severus' eyes, and smiled in a way he hoped was reassuring. "I wanted to talk about the offer you made this afternoon."
Severus visibly paled. He cleared his throat. "I-I made an off-offer, Master?"
"To testify. Lucius Malfoy's trial." Harry reminded him.
"Oh, yes." Severus relaxed. "Yes, yes, of course. I am sorry, Master. I had a moment upstairs, and when you asked me to come down, I could not shake the fear that you might ask me to-" Severus shook his head, and seemed to force a smile. "Forgive me, Master. I live in a state of unwarranted paranoia."
Harry gripped Severus' clammy hand. "It's warranted, but not from me."
Severus' hand stilled, tensed. Though once holding his hand could take away all Severus' troubles, it seemed those days were over.
Feeling something like a lout, Harry removed his hand from Severus', and tried to quell the awkward feeling he felt in the air. "The trial."
"Yes." Severus looked to be as relieved as Harry felt that the moment had passed. "Tell me what I must do."
"Just be sure that you want to do this." Harry said. "They will be coming down on you pretty hard, because you're my slave." My slave. Once the words seemed to hard to utter now flowed from his mouth almost as naturally as 'Master' did Severus'.
Severus nodded. "There is nothing they can ask I would be ashamed to admit in front of you, however-" he bit his lip. "I would be ashamed to admit it in front of all those people, not for any false sense of dignity I might posess, but for you."
This was coming from the man who only a year ago felt most comfortable eating from the floor. "Don't be embarassed for me. I'm not ashamed of any of the details of your personal life."
In a rare moment, Severus' eyes met Harry's without request. "You are not uncomfortable that I enabled many people to be killed through lethal potions? You are not uncomfortable that I once considered myself infatuated with your mother? These are things that under Veritiserum, are going to come up under questioning."
It didn't require a thorough internal examination for Harry to come up for the honest answers for those quations. "No. You brewed the potions, you didn't administer them. You have told me yourself that the only time you killed in cold blood was Dumbledore, and even that was under request. And as for my mother, it seemed really weird at first, but then I thought you died, and then Voldemort was dead. Things started moving really fast, and the next time I saw you, you were getting arrested ..." he faltered. "I suppose the next time I had a clear moment to think about it, it wasn't a shock anymore. I think I've grown up enough to see that my mother was a lovely woman, and that a lot of people probably loved her."
"They did," Severus spoke softly. "Though it does not show any redeeming qualities in myself, you might wish to note that how I felt about her quickly morphed from admiration to obsession, to making her mine over James Potter's. I did love her, but not how your father did. I did not love her enough to let her go."
Overanalysing things together was something Harry had done with Ron and Hermione over the years, and talking about Snape's affection for Harry's mum was no exception. Still, Harry nodded as if this information was new. "Don't worry about upsetting me at the trial, when you go. You're probably going to see me get angry, or upset, but it's not at you. It's going to be at other things, like how you are going to spoken to, or the people in the events you're recounting."
Severus pulled his hair out of his face, revealing that the mark on his forehead had gone from a faint white to an infected pink. "You might be angry now."
Alarm filled Harry, but he managed to not show it as he spoke. "What happened?"
"When you called me downstairs, I was reading. I was startled, and the accidental magic made the book catch on fire. The fire is out, but my covers may be scorched." Severus hung his head, but Harry could see the corners of his mouth twitching.
"May be?" Harry asked, smiling to show Severus he wasn't angry. He was just glad no one got hurt.
Severus nodded, finally relaxing once Harry put his palm to his head. "It is very likely."
Coming Up Next in Unwell...
...Chapter Seventy-Eight: currently untitled