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The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 2]

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Chapter Thirty-Seven

All Hallows Eve

ďIíve held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of meĒ

ĎMy Immortalí, Evanescence

Severus spent the following week feeling partly amused and partly irritated by Contessaís obvious zeal for organising the Halloween feast. He knew she was hoping the evening would lift the spirits of staff and students, and bring everyone together after the trials of the first half of the winter term.

It was for this reason that Severus allowed her to continue planning the feast; he appreciated the value of raising morale at Hogwarts. The best outcome for him would be fewer incidents of mutiny. And, so far, in the week leading up to the Friday night feast, the children were focused on the event and behaving themselves, for fear of the event being cancelled.

Times were difficult now the Dark Lordís stronghold had increased in power; Muggle-borns were being hunted down and the Carrows were teaching anti-Muggle propaganda at the school. Severus had to bite his tongue frequently and tell himself it was unavoidable.

He abhorred prejudice against Muggle-borns, after all, Lily was one, but he was the Headmaster of a school that discriminated against them. It was yet another part of himself which he had to keep securely locked away.

Since Phineas Nigellus Blackís portrait at Grimmauld Place had been stuffed into Hermione Grangerís magically proportioned bag, Severus had received scant news about Potter and his sidekicks. He knew the trio were still alive but, until such a time as their location could be revealed, Severus had to sit tight with the sword of Gryffindor.

Contessa had suggested that Potter may visit his parentsí grave on Halloween, giving them a potential window of opportunity to hand the sword over to the boy. Severus decided the odds were slim, and indeed he hoped Potter would not be stupid enough to turn up at Godricís Hollow on the anniversary of his parentsí death. However, Severus had acquiesced to the idea, in view of the fact that there were no other options available at present.

As the thirty-first of October approached, the anniversary of Lilyís death loomed like a spectre before him. Contessa had tried to cajole Severus into visiting the Pottersí grave with her, but he had persuaded her to go alone to cast the charm which would alert them should someone lay flowers by the headstone.

Severus had undertaken to wear the Tigerís Eye ring on his little finger, instead of around his neck. This eliminated the cumbersome step of removing the ring from its chain, thus drawing unwanted attention. Now he would be able to communicate with Contessa discreetly and respond should the charm be activated.

Severus had been reluctant to perform additional charms on the rings, fearing their magic might be disrupted, but in the end he decided to Disillusion his ring, to prevent people noticing that he and Contessa were wearing the same jewellery.

When Halloween arrived Severus spent the day pacing around the Headmasterís office, waiting impatiently for the summons from Godricís Hollow. He became increasingly restless, unable to concentrate and unwilling to find a task to keep him sufficiently occupied.

By late afternoon the tension was too much and he found himself drawn inexplicably to the graveyard.

Severus pulled on his heavy travelling cloak and retrieved Gryffindorís sword from behind Dumbledoreís portrait, casting the former Headmaster a brief nod to convey the swordís intended destination before he left the office.

The students were still in their final lesson of the day as Severus strode unseen out of the castle.

He Apparated to the kissing gate of All Saints Church at Godricís Hollow and concealed himself with a Disillusionment Charm, passing through the gate as though the wind had swept through it.

Severus made his way carefully across the graveyard. Although he had only been there once before, for the funeral, the location of the grave was firmly imprinted in his memory. His feet crunched down on golden brown leaves as he passed numerous tombstones, a steady breeze teasing his hair away from his face as he walked.

Although it was not particularly cold, the breeze held a noticeable autumn chill. Its humidity suggested impending rain.

Severus wrapped himself snugly in his cloak as he passed the grave of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, and he briefly read the inscription on the headstone.

Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

The words tugged Severus somewhere deep in his chest.

His treasure lay only two rows away.

A lump formed in his throat as he approached from behind a white marble headstone. It seemed to shine with ethereal grace, inviting him closer.

Severus walked around the headstone and circled to face it. His eyes skipped past the engraving of James Potterís name with a nauseous surge of annoyance. Instead he focused on the second name and his eyes devoured the inscription.

Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960
Died 31 October 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Severusís mouth turned dry, as tightness formed in his chest and throat. He dropped to his knees, his eyes stinging with the first signs of tears and he felt the cold, wet earth beneath him soaking into his cloak and trousers, cooling his skin.

Then the sensations in his body engulfed him; pain twisted like a knife in his stomach and his ear drums pounded and prickled, in synchrony with his heartbeat. Severus wrapped his arms around himself as tears rolled down his face, splashing his cloak and landing on the grass at his knees.

Shuddering and shaking with the agony of grief he knelt crippled on the ground, losing all sense of space and time, cocooned in his cloak before the grave of his treasure.

Eventually the pain in his abdomen turned into a hollow ache and he started to become aware of the breeze gently drying his face. He looked once again at the words on the headstone.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Severusís insides numbed in response. The only man capable of cheating death was the one who murdered Lily.

The Dark Lord took her life and Severus was still angry that Lily had died, despite having taken steps to prevent it. But, as ever, Lily had been the consummate Gryffindor and had bravely stepped in front of the Dark Lord to protect her only child.

Lilyís love for her son was so profound that Severus was consumed with sickening jealousy whenever he was reminded of it. And that had happened frequently in recent years.

The irony of the way events had unfolded that fateful night was not lost on Severus. The Boy Who Lived survived only because Severus had tried to protect Lily. If the Dark Lord had gone to Godricís Hollow with the intention of murdering her, Lily would never have been able to cast the protective charm which had kept her son alive and ultimately defeated the Dark Lord.

Severus couldnít help but feel a glimmer of pride at her talent and ability. It was Lily who had defeated the Dark Lord, not Harry Potter.

Lily had destroyed death that day but, in doing so, she lost her own life. Her body lay cold in the ground beneath his feet, and there wasnít a day passed by when Severus didnít wish he could join her there.

He wasnít scared of death; Severus saw it as release from a painfully lonely life. Death would reunite him with Lily once more.

But he was not likely to have this wish granted any time soon; he intended to redeem himself and prove his love for Lily before that time arrived.

The hilt of Gryffindorís sword weighed heavily on his hip and reminded him of his purpose for living. Severus had a role to perform before he met his death and he had every intention of completing his mission.

As his grief dissipated he stared at Lily Potterís name carved on the white marble, and reminded himself of his responsibilities.

Severus had never told Lily that he loved her, nor had he disclosed it to anyone else. But he admitted it to himself and he knew, with steely certainty, that he would never love another. Lily was the love of his life and his deepest, most terrible regret. She had meant everything to him whilst she was alive, and continued to be the focus of his world in death.

His wounds would never heal as long as he lived, but at least his anguish would be extinguished eventually.

Rubbing the salty tracks of tears from his face, Severus rose to his feet, noticing that darkness had almost descended in the time he had been kneeling at the graveside.

He didnít care that heíd been away from Hogwarts for too long; the time spent at Lilyís grave had nourished him and renewed his sense of purpose.

Harry Potter might still attend during the remaining hours of All Hallows Eve, but Severus knew he could not spend the evening skulking in the churchyard; his presence would be required at the feast.

Severus faced his inevitable departure from Lilyís graveside with miserable reluctance.

As he stood and prepared to leave, a warm presence encircled his hand, and for a fleeting moment he imagined it to be Lily placing her hand reassuringly in his.

However, an instant later the Tigerís Eye ring cooled against the skin of his little finger.

With a sickening jolt, he knew Lily was gone. Reality was calling him home.


The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 2]

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