Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Brother Z3 Reviews
The Final Battle is over. Harry has left Britain, leaving a devastated magical community, a lost Hermione, and a blinded Luna. Hermione becomes Professor McGonagall's apprentice while she cares f...
Snape hesitated, but then knocked on the office door.
"Come in! Severus? How . . . unexpected."
"Filius, may we talk?"
Flitwick was curious, to say the least. "Of course, Severus. Please, have a seat and tell me what you want."
'Not 'tell me what I can do for you',' Snape noted as he did so. "I think you know how I am treated and looked upon. I was hoping you might be able to explain to me why, so that I could understand it. Then, perhaps, I will know what to do about it." Snape could not understand why he was hated and persecuted, and trusted no one else to give him both an honest and an intelligent appraisal.
"There are many layers to that," Flitwick said thoughtfully. He paused for nearly a minute. "Fine. First, let me say that while I blame Albus nearly as much as I blame you for your troubles, he is not here to shoulder anything. Only you can decide to change, and since he is dead, he can no longer help you -- or hold you back. Blaming him will not help you go forward."
"Let us begin here at Hogwarts. What do you, Hagrid, and Trelawney have in common?" Snape looked confused. "Umbridge was a nasty, foolish, vain, bitch," Flitwick stated, "but she did identify our three weakest teachers, along with Binns, who was the worst before he left. You know your subject extraordinarily well, of course, but you are a poor teacher, Severus. You are also a tremendously biased one. Any other staff member who taught as poorly as you and who was as biased as you would have certainly been let go after their second year, if not their first. Albus always protected you -- from us, the Ministry, the parents, and of course from yourself. Under your teaching, the percentage of O O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s dropped by half. Your grades were the least predictive of achievement on the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s of all the teaching staff, and by a large factor. He allowed you to corrupt nearly an entire generation of Slytherins. You are a clever man, Severus. Given even a little guidance, you should have been easily able to have come up with ways to help those Slytherins make better choices and be a better teacher which would not have destroyed your cover, if it had still been intact." That made Snape wince.
"No, instead, Albus let you slide, and you fought off all offers of help, and then demands of change. Minerva will not let you slide. While none of us on staff want you to fail, to be honest we really do not care if you succeed."
"You suffered horribly, and did horrible things. Some of those things you did, perhaps most or even all, could not have been avoided. There is little evidence that you tried to avoid much, and there is no evidence I have heard of that you even regard what evil things you did as necessary evils, just necessary. How can anyone trust a person with an attitude like that? Should a person like that really be teaching children? Granted, in one important way you tried to do the right thing, but you wound up doing much more harm, even evil, than good. Until you can acknowledge the second, few will give you credit for the first."
"Well," Snape admitted, "I have to admit I understand that, even if I really don't agree with it." He looked at Flitwick. "That's how people look at me?"
"At best," Flitwick said simply.
"So what do I need to do?" Snape demanded. "Walk around self-flagellating myself over my poor choices?"
"No," Flitwick snapped. "That certainly will not help, although if you meant that literally, some might derive some doubtful pleasure at your expense. Tell me, when was the last time you even admitted to feeling some compassion, even pity, for someone?"
"Those who felt such stirrings were quickly tortured, if not killed," Snape pointed out.
"I had feared as much," Flitwick answered. "If Dumbledore . . . no, as I said, there is no use wondering about what Dumbledore might have done better seventeen years ago. Tell me, Severus, why did you want to come back?"
Snape's shoulder's slumped, and he showed that he was at least capable of some self-pity. "What else am I to do? Where else could I go?" He gestured vaguely. "I was not treated well here by my so-called peers, as a student or on staff, but Hogwarts was far preferable to life with my family. I am thirty-eight, and I have spent just over twenty-four years of my life here." He glared at Flitwick. "You have claimed that being here is a calling for you, but how many others here could honestly say that? Perhaps McGonagall. For the rest of us, it is a chance to be paid well for what we enjoy being associated with, in a society which pays well for very little. Sinistra would still be looking at the stars through her telescope no matter what, but unless she joined the Muggle world, no one else in Britain would pay her to do it. Sprout would have to be the gardener for some aristocratic snob, or be reduced to raising a vegetable garden and a few house plants."
"As for me, I know I have not produced the research I should have, but where else could I have the resources I have here?" He looked at Flitwick. "How many here truly enjoy working with adolescents? And, without comparing you and I, and knowing that it does not excuse whatever failing I might have, I do ask you to look at yourself when thinking about why I am here."
"What do you mean?" Flitwick asked, bewildered.
"Yes, I allowed bullying and intimidation and even some abuse. However, while I would not have stopped the abuse Lovegood suffered, even I would certainly have stopped the outright theft which plagued her. Your Ravenclaws. . . ." Snape stopped himself. "No, you would say I am just striking back at you, and that is not where I wanted this conversation to go."
"Theft?" Flitwick demanded. "Bullying?"
Snape grimaced. "I hate to admit this, but sometimes I think the only one of us who knows how to run a House is Sprout. Merlin, that the Hufflepuffs are adequate! Yes, she was bullied, and theft was a large part of it. I thought she was merely weird, but part of the Dark Lord's 'softening up' process was a serum which relayed the victim's worst experiences. Other than her mother's dying, all of Lovegood's concerned the bullying and even vicious abuse she suffered here at Hogwarts. Did you know she three times came close to killing herself in her second and third years? That is why she latched on to Potter and his cronies in her fourth."
Snape waved all that off. "However, that draws us away from my questions. I take it you have no advice?"
"Yes, I do," Flitwick said. "Let me relay this information to Zed. I'll even do it via penseive if you wish, up to this point, so that he gets an honest image. He is more in contact with the greater magical world than anyone else here." Snape frowned. "Even if he is the one behind your . . . mishaps, I do not think this would make things worse in any way."
"Very well." Snape stood, then halted. For the first time in many years, he could honestly, and unprompted, say, "Thank you."
It took Flitwick a few days to get Z alone in the afternoon to talk. The Ravenclaw forgot all his plans on how to discuss the various points, and simply dumped all the information on Z at once.
"You really didn't know Luna was bullied?"
"Yes," Z answered simply, adding, "but not to the point Snape claimed."
"Look at me, Z," Flitwick exclaimed. "My maternal grandfather was from a well-known Pure-blood family. I won't say which one. He had a condition commonly called dwarfism. As he was a younger son, his parents practically sold him, as they were ashamed that he would mar their oh-so Pure opinion of themselves. I really don't know how a goblin ended up with him, or have a daughter who looked mostly human. My father was an illegitimate scion of a different Pure-blood family. He worked at Gringotts, and met my mother." His arms waved about. "You can imagine how I was teased in my schooldays here. If I had known about this, I would have found some way to stop it."
"I believe you. If Luna does have her sight back, we are going to help her prepare for her N.E.W.T.s in Charms, Transfiguration, Runes, and Divination. If you wouldn't mind looking over her Charms Theory?"
"Of course not," Flitwick said. "I can help with anything but the Divination. I shall welcome some discussions with her, as to how I might straighten out our House."
Z merely bowed his agreement.
"Now, what about Severus?"
Z sighed slightly. "He may have made the first small step. He has a long way to go. Still, would he take another option, rather than wanting to stay here?"
"Oh, I think so," Flitwick said. "This has been his haven, not really his home. Where else could he go?"
Z nodded. "I can understand that. I felt that way about my school in some ways, and the monasteries to a lesser degree. However, I could love Hogwarts easily." He considered. "I think I can find him some place where he could feel useful, and perhaps learn about himself as well. I shall make inquires."
Flitwick nodded. "And how is Miss Lovegood?"
"The bandages come off Saturday. The prognosis is good, but we'll just have to wait and see."
The healer unwrapped the bandages in the darkened room at the magical hospital in Geneva. Two medi-wizards, Hermione, and Z were the only other people in the room.
"Open your eyes," the healer commanded in French.
Luna hesitantly did so. "It's dark, but I . . . I can see! Hermione! Zee! I can see!"
"So, it was a success?" McGonagall asked that night. The heads of House, Madam Pomfrey, and Z were in her office.
"Yes, although Hermione admits it will be strange for a while to see a brown-eyed Luna."
"How long does she have to stay?" Remus asked.
"Only until tomorrow," Z answered.
"I've been kept up-dated," Pomfrey said. "As long as there are no head traumas for the next week or so, there should be no problems."
"There had better not be any 'traumas'," Z growled, sending a frisson of fear through them.
"Feeling a little protective, are we?" Remus teased.
Z glowered, and that sent a wave of power through them which made them shiver. "Remus," Z asked coldly, "how many mages live in Britain and Ireland, as opposed to Muggles?"
Remus frowned on this non-sequitur, but answered, "We number about 27,000, all included, although about three thousand are sometimes excluded as they are part-humans. The werewolves are included in the larger figure, but vampires are excluded from both. As for the Muggles. . . ."
"I believe they number a bit more than 62,000,000," Flitwick said.
"Now, the North American Confederation, or the United States and Canada to use the Muggle terms, contain just over five times the number of Muggles, but about ten times the number of mages."
"So, if a wizard of say Dumbledore's power, or Riddle's or Potter's, shows up about once every three generations in Britain, how often would one statistically show up in the Confederation?"
"At least once a generation, if not twice?" Remus said.
"So, do you really want to mock me, Remus? Especially when Hogwarts seems to like me?" Suddenly, there were muffled shouts, and all the portraits disappeared from their frames. "Even if that means preventing the portraits from spying on me, or having them spy for me." The portraits, all looking very confused, started peeking around their frames.
"I wasn't mocking you," Remus tried to assure Z.
"No, you were either teasing me, or trying to threaten me or my friends," Z answered serenely. "I presume it was the former."
"It was, oh believe me, it was," Remus hurriedly said.
"Good. So, shall we talk about our good colleague, the Snake?" Z twisted around and scolded Dumbledore's portrait, which was just raising a forefinger, "and no comments from you, please." Dumbledore pouted. "I can get him a research position with a North American think tank at the least. The pay is poor, but the benefits are excellent."
"Benefits?" Sprout asked.
"Room, board, health care, help patenting any potion breakthroughs, things like that.
Remus, however, had thought of something else. Z's power might just explain something many had long wondered about. "Z, were you part of the group that stopped the August Offering?"
"No," Z answered. "I was the only person involved in that operation."
"Trust me. You need to tell Luna."
"That was you?" Luna asked, just settling into her favorite chair in her and Hermione's suite. Z merely nodded. "Thank you," the stunned Luna said.
"What was the August Offering'?" Hermione asked, confused at not having a clue for once.
"Voldemort had kidnaped thirteen magical children," Luna whispered. "I was by far the youngest, but the oldest two were the Weasley twins. They had been lured just past the Burrows' wards, I believe. We were to be sacrificed the next day. We were guarded by two-thirds of Voldemort's Death Eaters. We were always told that we were rescued by a group, suspected to be from the North American Confederation, but that was never confirmed."
"How did you get them away?" Hermione demanded. "I mean, how many Death Eaters were guarding them?"
"There were eighty-four, and I didn't get the children away," Z said heavily. "I killed the eighty-four Death Eaters."
Hermione's jaw dropped.
"It took less than two minutes, but I hit them as hard and as fast as I could. I was so angry." Z's voice was very quiet. "There was so much blood, and one little girl died."
Luna frowned. "No, all thirteen of us were rescued."
"I heard that one hostage was killed," Z persisted.
"Oh, I know what happened! Yes, one of the kidnap victims died -- the Patils were triplets, not twins. But she died during the kidnaping, not the rescue. That's why I was added, when they saw the chance to grab me. I can assure you, Z, all thirteen of the children who were there lived. We even all attended Hogwarts."
Z's eyes closed. "I can't tell you how much I wish I had known that seventeen years ago," Z said softly, reluctantly. "Still, when I was sent there, I just knew I had to do what I could. I still had to kill quickly and remorselessly. Those weren't the first Death Eaters I had killed. They weren't the last. But after that bloodbath, I had to leave. I couldn't take any more death for a while."
Z felt two pairs of arms gather him into a hug. "Some would say I ran away," Z said, "that I was a coward, or that I was weak. Well, I don't think I was a coward, but I was weak. I essentially left behind a mess, which only temporarily came to a halt nearly three months later, when Voldemort was disembodied."
"I was one of the few to know he could come back, who believed he would come back. I spent the next fifteen years in meditation, in penance, and in study. I destroyed the dementors, who would have been Voldemort's most dangerous allies." Z's mouth quirked. "I met with Harry just after the last battle. He and I had a long talk. He needed to get away. You can partially blame me for where he has ended up. In return, though, he didn't forgive me for running away last time. He made me stay, for I would have gladly joined him in leaving."
"No, he wanted someone he could trust to come and keep an eye on the one place he still cared about. Hogwarts. Someone to keep an eye on the only two people still alive who he cared about -- you two. And, to be honest, to keep an eye on Snape."
"And how do you feel about that assignment now?" Luna asked.
"Hogwarts is everything I could want in a position, and almost everything I could want in a home," Z answered. "Snape will be dealt with, sooner or later; certainly by the end of school year."
"And exactly how do you feel about us?" Hermione asked. "We both hope you don't still think of us as your sisters."
"That would be . . . rather, well, icky," Luna agreed, "considering how our feelings for you are developing."
Z swallowed nervously. "For seventeen years, I foreswore any personal relationships, other than professional ones." His arms involuntarily moved and he hugged the two younger women. "I cannot begin to tell you how I feel for either of you, other than I feel I don't deserve more than your casual friendship."
"But what do you want?" Luna asked.
"I . . . I am very attracted to both of you," Z admitted.
"That's a good first step," Hermione said. "Now, about the two of us. We are best friends. We love each other, and are lovers. We are not madly in love."
"Well, maybe we're in love, but no, we aren't madly in love," Luna agreed. "Still, we are both more attracted to men than women."
"I would go so far as to say that I could only make love with Luna, not any other female," Hermione stated.
"I wouldn't go that far, although I certainly wouldn't have relations with anyone other than Hermione, male or female . . . unless he was someone we could both love, and who could love both of us."
Z hugged them closer, but said nothing.
"How many more secrets do you carry, Zee?" Luna asked.
"Many," Z answered. "Many deep and terrible ones, which you won't like."
"Are they ones we truly need to know?" Luna asked.
"I'm afraid so," he acknowledged. "That's why I said in Geneva that I think we should slow down. We should stay close and friendly, but nothing more until the holidays. Hopefully I'll have an answer to the Snape problem by then, and we will know for certain if this is something we all want to pursue."
"Ah," Luna said, "the restraint of the older male. Someone our age would already have us naked."