Chapter 3: Tea and Sandwiches
When Harry returned to the shack the next day, there was a paper bag in his hand. Snape studied it suspiciously as the boy set it down on the end table and slid it towards him, almost as if it were some type of explosive he was afraid of setting off.
“You come up with new methods to be unsettling every day, Potter,” Snape observed, his eyes fixated on the bag.
“Believe it or not, I’m trying to be helpful,” Harry huffed.
“I may choose not to believe it,” Snape decided.
“Would you just…open the bloody thing?”
“Are you testing my courage, or my judgment skills?”
“Fine!” Harry opened the bag himself and pulled out a sandwich and a thermos of tea. “Are you satisfied now?”
He studied the admittedly rather sloppy and ill-assembled sandwich intensely. “Satisfied that you’re intent is probably slow poisoning.”
“What the…you’re already poisoned! How would that make any sense at all?”
“I made no comment on the heights of your rationality, which, I might add, have never been particularly up to par.”
Harry’s face grew red. “I shouldn’t have bothered bringing you ANYTHING!”
“Did I ASK you to bring me anything?”
The younger wizard threw up his hands in frustration at the sheer obstinacy of his old teacher. He felt stupid for even trying to be decent to him. It was obviously going nowhere but down the dark, fathomless tunnel of this man’s disturbed mind. “Why are we even doing this, Snape?” he queried at last. “Why am I even trying?”
“I don’t…” the professor paused dramatically. “…know.”
“I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it?” Harry spat. “Neither of know much of anything right now; we’re just going around and around in some warped circle…”
“I thought your diabolical scheme to slow the effects of the venom in my bloodstream was for the purpose of interrogation,” Snape postulated. “Why not get on with it and abandon your philosophical gymnastics?”
“Alright,” Harry snapped, spinning around. “But I won’t ask you questions like a simpering student to an all-knowing teacher. No, not even to a poisoned-black double-spy. If you want to get petty, I’ll get petty. Go ahead, tell me what you would have done with her if you had gotten her instead of my father when you were in school!”
“You complain about it, but what did you have to offer her that my father couldn’t have outdone you on? What makes you think you could even have made her happy, or shown her a good time? I can’t see you taking her out to any dances or parties or anything. All you care about is yourself, and what would have made your miserable life bearable.”
Snape’s onyx eyes were hard as stone, and Harry waited for the turmoil seething behind them to explode. But it didn’t happen. Instead, he quietly assessed, “You know nothing, Potter.”
And somehow Harry felt sufficiently rebuked by that. For he saw in those eyes some frightening level of depth, like the night’s shroud or the morning’s fog, and it could not be penetrated. His antagonistic inquiry seemed so shallow in comparison, launched out of revenge for a rejected sandwich, that he slumped down in his chair, dejected at having let himself go off like that. He had sounded like a teenaged brat, even if Snape was being nigh impossible.
“I’m sorry,” Harry mumbled. “That was…dumb.”
“That’s a mild way of putting it,” Snape scoffed. A long silence elapsed before he spoke again, slowly, lowly. “If I made myself scarce in the social field in my formative years, perhaps it is because I had the good sense to recognize the fact that people fail to live up to educational standards,” he stated. “Especially at dances, may I add, an activity which the most primitive barbarian can accomplish.”
“You clearly never tried at dance lessons then,” Harry snorted. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Snape had a look on his face as if he were deciding whether or not to say more. Finally, he cracked. “Your mother…once…tried something of the sort on me.”
Harry squinted. “Seriously?”
“It was…Christmas. We were children, and she was having some sort of gathering. She wanted to show me how…” He paused, cutting to the chase. “It was pointless drudgery after one dance instruction.”
“What kind of dance was it?”
“Just…a basic sort of ballroom dance.”
It was so long ago, but Snape still remembered it vividly. He remembered how he had dreaded the idea of showing up at her party in old clothes, but it was either that or spend Christmas listening to his father and mother fighting like cats and dogs, with his father breaking dishes and turning over furniture and his mother threatening to throw hot stew at him.
When he had arrived at her house, Lily came to the door in a little green dress, with red ribbons in her hair. He had never seen her so well-dressed before, and awkwardly remarked that she looked like…a Christmas tree. She had rolled her eyes good-naturedly, taken him by the hand, and pulled him into the party room. As he had predicted, the other children started to mock him for his appearance, but Lily was loyal. She was determined that they should have the first dance.
“So was it a complete catastrophe, or just boring?” Harry inquired.
“It was…not memorable in any way.”
Alright, that was not really true. He remembered it very well, and the way she kept cuing him on when to do this and that, and how his hand got hot and sweaty holding her by the waist. And when it ended, she said that he’d done splendidly. And he was proud of himself for a moment. And then…
“So then you just quit after that?”
“As the result of…” He hesitated again. “What is known as a ‘swing dance’.”
“You did a swing dance?!”
“I said…we stopped.”
Well, technically true…they stopped because he had virtually panicked when said “swing dance” was announced, not knowing in the least what he was supposed to do, and when he had attempted to engage in it at her insistence, he had fallen into Lily, causing both of them to tumble onto the carpet, to the wild laughter of the other party-goers. And that was that.
“Then what did you do?”
“Why do you care?” Snape huffed.
“I don’t know…it’s just getting interesting.”
Snape sighed. “For your information, we just…sat on the stairs and talked.”
“Just…talked? At a party?”
“Good conversation, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from listening to yourself jabbering on, is extremely hard to come by,” he retorted tersely.
“Thanks for nothing.”
“The pleasure…is mine.”
Snape would not tell him the rest. How, on the stairs, Lily had given him a book of old poetry for Christmas, and he had felt terrible for not having the money to buy her a gift in return. And he had vowed that someday, when he became really famous as a grownup, he would buy her anything she wanted. She could just name it, and he would get it for her.
She had giggled and pointed up at the mistletoe hanging from the stairwell, and said, “You can kiss me, Sevy. That’ll be your present!”
He had been frightened to death at such a prospect, and protested faintly that the other more popular boys wouldn’t like it.
“But I don’t like them half as well as I like you, so it doesn’t matter,” she had insisted. “Go on, kiss me!”
He had never been asked to kiss someone before. Girls at school, when he could attend, called him a “creeper” and threw balls of crumpled paper at him. They’d ridicule him for his skinny frame and large nose, and he’d shuffle away from them as fast as he could, his temper boiling deep beneath an icy façade.
But when he did kiss her on the cheek, and she blushed as red as the ribbon strung through her red hair, he had decided that he liked it very much. And then she kissed him back. And, flustered as his 10-year-old self had been, he was sure he liked it, after all.
“So you were over my mum’s house,” Harry connected. “Did you know my Aunt Petunia then?”
His eyes darted to the ceiling. “Yesss.”
Harry suppressed a chuckle at his tone of response. “What, you didn’t like her?”
“Most muggles are insufferable, but she was uniquely so in a way that I could imagine even other muggles would find revolting.”
“And you never even met her son,” Harry reminded him.
“Yes, my cousin Dudley. A fat, lazy boy who never did anything but stuff his mouth with sweets and go whining to his mummy about every bloody thing…and taunt me about…my being an orphan.”
The professor visibly grimaced, envisioning Petunia’s loathsome child.
“Imagine,” Harry challenged, “he could have been Lily’s son instead of me. Then you would have had to look out for…”
“Are you trying to give me nightmares, Potter?”
“I thought I was your worst nightmare.”
He was quiet for a long moment. “Such a creature could never be…Lily’s son, no matter who the father was. And if Petunia’s offspring ever gave me half as much trouble as you provided me with over the years, I would have cast a transformative spell, turned him into a warthog, and sent him in the direction of the cook.”
Now Harry really did laugh. Even though Snape’s expression remained humorless, Harry somehow sensed that he was not altogether unamused.
“I blew up her sister-in-law once.”
“Well…I got upset…”
“Dammit, Potter, you knew full well that magic is forbidden to young wizards away from school!” he lectured, leaning up on the cot.
“It was an accident…sort of,” he assured. “She called my mum…a bitch. And I was so furious, I couldn’t control myself. One minute she was in her chair, and the next minute she started to…well…blow up like a balloon…and then she floated out the window.”
Snape looked at the boy quizzically for a moment. “And this was the only time you ever used magic away from Hogwarts?”
“Well…there was the time I…levitated a pudding once…and dropped it on someone’s head.”
“It wasn’t completely my fault…it was more of a…house elf…thing…” He paused for a moment, and asked randomly, “My mum made you a birthday cake once, didn’t she?”
Snape’s eyes flitted for a moment, embarrassed, before nodding. It must have been revealed through his memories in the vial.
“Did she bake well? Was it a good cake?”
“It was…a very good cake.”
“Compared to other birthday cakes, even?”
“Potter, you are an obsessive, aren’t you?” He exhaled, frustrated. “It was…the only birthday cake… I ever had.”
Harry blinked. So…they had that in common. “What kind of cake was it?”
“Chocolate,” Snape divulged through gritted teeth, “with raspberry filling.” He looked at the young man, and saw some wistful longing in his eyes. “Yes, Potter,” he acknowledged with surprising softness, “she would have made them for you too.”
“I had a picture of her, on my dresser at Aunt Petunia’s,” Harry mumbled. “It was autumn, and she was in a tweed cap, and she was with my dad. They were dancing, and smiling…”
He waited for the professor’s reaction, which he was prepared to be a sharp retort at his touching upon an old wound. But even though his dark eyes pierced him for a moment, he calmly conceded, “Whatever your father was, he did…care for her. And he would have cared for you as well, as she did.” He averted his gaze awkwardly. “She was…caring, that’s all.”
“Well…maybe that’s where I inherit the need to make sandwiches for nasty people who really don’t deserve them.”
“I assure you, the worst prisoners in Azkaban would deserve sandwiches from you.”
“You can’t even be an accurate judge of that, as you haven’t even touched it!”
The professor stared at him dubiously. Then unexpectedly, he gestured at the paper bag. “My scientific curiosity is being aroused.”
“More like hunger!” Harry shot back. “You haven’t had anything since your encounter with a certain out-of-control ‘pet’. Either that, or you have some perverse desire to be a guinea pig.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Call it a death wish.”
“For which one of us?”
“Both/and,” he declared. “Since I refuse to be the only one taking this risk, we are going to…split it in half.”
“How generous of you!” Harry sparred.
“Give – me – the –sandwich…” Snape paused in his monotone demand, and then finished, “Now.”
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.