Fic Title: Knowledge is Power (Part 4)
Characters: Snape, Livia Perkins(OC)
Word Count: 1734
With this instalment we reach the end of the current tale, at which point I had intended to stop until the release of Book 6.
But I have found that Livia has her own ideas about where she wants to go next. Accordingly, there will be (I think) three more stories, although this one is likely to be the longest. It still stands as is, except for one change; Livia is now a year ahead of Harry, rather than a year behind.
“Very wise.” He glanced around, picked a direction Livia knew not how and strode away. She hurried after him. She doubted he’d leave her if she fell behind, but… well, with men like him, one never knew.
Once she’d caught up, he said, “Perhaps you’d care to tell me how you concluded that Lucius Malfoy is behind this. Just to pass the time.”
Livia explained about what she’d seen in the Entrance Hall, and her own failed attempt to issue a warning. “The Malfoys are helping the Dark Lord set a trap for Potter, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” he snarled, “and he’s dived straight into it. It’s out of my hands now.”
“Where’s he going?”
Snape blasted a bramble patch out of his way. “The Ministry of Magic. The Dark Lord’s been trying to lure him there for months.”
“Strange you don’t know that. You seem remarkably well-informed about everything else.”
“Observation and educated guesswork only gets one so far.”
He cast her a sidelong glance. “It seems to have got you quite far enough to land yourself in trouble.”
Now we’re getting to it. “Or you. Isn’t that what you mean? Where would you be if I’d shouted your history from the rooftops?”
The temperature of the June night seemed to drop a few degrees. “Exactly where I am now. Twenty years ago, I was… acquainted with too many future Death Eaters for there not to be gossip. It means nothing.”
“Professor Dumbledore’s testimony before the Wizengamot means nothing? Then how is it you’re not in Azkaban?”
“You don’t know anything, do you? This is just another of your ‘educated guesses’.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Do you care whether I do or not?”
“Stop dancing. I know something I’m not supposed to, and you’re trying to find out how I know it, but it’s difficult to ask without admitting that it’s true. Even though your face already did.”
“You’re not the only one who can make educated guesses. One of your relatives overheard something at the Ministry – completely out of context, by the sound of it.”
Livia raised her eyebrows. “You’ve been researching my family tree.”
“Naturally. Don’t avoid the question.”
“What question? Okay!” she added hastily as he turned a full-force scowl her way. “You’re right. Shortly after you came to Hogwarts, two Wizengamot members were debating whether you should be outside of Azkaban, let alone anywhere near impressionable children. And it got a bit heated.”
“And they forgot to keep their voices down, and one of your faceless, forgettable, minor bureaucrat relatives just happened to be within earshot. Typical.”
“And kept it to herself, as a good bureaucrat should. Until the Christmas of 1989.”
“A few months after you became the first Perkins Slytherin for three generations.”
“She thought I ought to know.”
His lip curled. “How nice. One of the most closely-guarded secrets since the Dark Lord’s disappearance, and an eleven-year-old ought to know.”
“Keeping one’s mouth shut is a skill Perkins children are taught early on. Preparation for future roles as faceless, forgettable minor bureaucrats. I’ve never breathed a word until tonight.”
Snape blew apart one last bush and stepped out onto a trail, turning right with the same effortless confidence that had marked his progress to date. “Ah yes… the Perkins ethos. Most Slytherins come from families who drum it into their children’s little heads that, because they’re purebloods, the world is theirs by right. But you – taught to walk the corridors of power and never wield any of your own, to take pride in doing the jobs the powerful consider beneath them and keeping their secrets as well as any house-elf. As the Perkinses have done since time immemorial. And you, alone in three generations, have the arrogance to decide that it’s not enough. Why?”
“I – I don’t know. It’s like…” Livia swallowed, surprised to find a painful lump in her throat. What was it like? She shook her hair out from behind her ears and ducked her head to let it fall over her face again, bitter in the knowledge that it would tell him he’d got to her, hoping against hope that he’d consent to drop the subject.
His footsteps quickened for a moment, then stopped; and she realised he was standing in her path a heartbeat before she would have walked into him. Stubbornly she kept her head down, gaze tracing every line on her fists. There was a brief pause; and when he spoke his voice was barely above a whisper. “It was like having a feast spread out in front of you, but not being able to eat because you had a craving for something that wasn’t there – something you couldn’t even name. And then you came here, and the Sorting Hat knew. But that didn’t make things any better, because you had to work it all out for yourself. Most people hated you for being too Slytherin, and the Slytherins despised you because they thought you weren’t Slytherin enough. Your family couldn’t possibly understand, not even your dear brother; and anyone who could understand would be the last person you’d want anywhere near you. So you learned to live with the loneliness.” She realised she was holding her breath only when it exploded from her in a sobbing, gulping gasp; and she clenched her teeth against another outburst. I will not blub in front of Professor Snape!
Now he really was whispering, his breath warm against her ear. “But you’re better than all of them, aren’t you, Perkins? No prestigious bloodline, no inherited riches – you’ll have to claw your way up from the bottom of the pile and that’s exactly what you intend to do. And you will permit nothing and no-one to stand in your way. Not even the Dark Lord himself.”
A lightning-flash of rage seared across the storm of misery – how dare he know her so well? Her head came up so fast she almost butted him. But he didn’t deign to move, just stood bent forward to the ear that was no longer there.
“What – do you – want?” She forced the words past her still-clenched teeth. The urge to cry was suddenly gone, trampled by a barely-controlled need to punch him in the face.
He turned his head, his eyes, so close, alight with dark hilarity. “Ah… aggression. You’d like to hurt me just now, wouldn’t you, Perkins?”
“Depends. How well do you scream?” The words were out before she heard them coming, and she gulped, shocked at herself.
But Snape seemed not in the least offended; indeed, his smirk broadened into a shark-like smile. “Oh, very good. Excellent. He’ll like you.”
A block of ice seemed to drop into the pit of her stomach. This time there was no disguising her fear, or checking the backwards step. Her grip on her wand tightened.
He straightened up, still smiling that terrible smile. “Don’t be foolish, girl. I’m not going to throw you to him right away. There’s a world of work to do before you’re ready.” He turned away and resumed his progress along the trail. She hesitated, caught between following him and getting left in the Forbidden Forest, alone. Well – whatever this plan of his is, it doesn’t seem to involve hurting me tonight. She glanced at the lurking shadows with a shudder. Or eating me.
“So,” he said as she caught up, “now do you see why I gave you the Veritaserum?”
With a sigh, Livia flogged her weary brain into action again. “Because it wasn’t enough just to tell me you knew which side I was on. You wanted to hand me the means to destroy you, so I’d have no doubt that you knew I wouldn’t.”
“Thereby cutting past a great deal of tedious… ‘dancing’ was the word you used, I seem to recall. Pretend all you want to everyone else, but we both know that your vision of the future has no room for the Dark Lord. We can’t have bystanders in this war – particularly ones with your talents.”
“So we’re back to, ‘What do you want?’”
“As if you haven’t guessed. We’ll discuss it later. I have to get back to the castle and find out just how big a mess Potter has made.”
Livia looked up to see the cheerful lights of Hogwarts through the thinning trees. “Oh. Should we split up?”
“Of course we’re going to split up. One person looks outside at the wrong moment, and that’s six years of pretending to ignore you down the drain. But while we’re on the subject – I frequently get the impression that I’m the only person who can see you. Why is that?”
“It’s called the Somebody Else’s Problem spell, sir. An invention of Uncle Cassius. It… well, let me put it this way. Describe to me the lintel on your office door.”
He gazed at her through half-lidded eyes. “Stone, rectangular, and I walk beneath it several times a day without noticing it at all. I assume the third quality is the important one.”
“Exactly. It’s no use if someone already knows I’m there, or if they’re specifically looking for me; and apparently you can get past it without even trying. There’s a lot about it that’s yet to be researched properly. But it does keep that twit Malfoy off my back most of the time.”
He arched an eyebrow wryly. “I wouldn’t underestimate Draco Malfoy if I were you.”
“I try not to. One day he’ll learn to keep his big trap shut and make better use of that instinct he has for people’s weak spots; and on that day I will commence watching him like a hawk.”
“Mm. You do that.” He stopped a little way short of the forest’s edge. “This will do. Go on ahead. Oh, and return my Veritaserum tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir.” She put out her wand light, cast Alienus Forsit and hurried across the open space between forest and castle. The sounds of end-of-exam parties drifted from open windows.
Snape was right, of course. She had guessed his plans for her. She wasn’t sure she liked them.
Well… I could always say no… maybe I should… and yet…
And yet her breath was coming in quick little gasps as her blood sang with the mingling of terror and exhilaration. There was not an inch of her that really wanted to refuse.