The day after Calista woke up, Severus returned to his classes, while she stayed in their dungeon flat. He noted, with mild annoyance, that whoever had substituted for him had not assigned any homework, and he doubled up on it to make up for lost time. His students were not particularly excited, but then, they had been spoiled for nearly a week, and it was high time they were expected to work again.
As far as Severus could tell, Calista had returned very nearly to her old self. She was a little quieter than usual, the first couple of days, but her mind was still repairing itself, and that didn't worry him, so long as her eyes looked clear and familiar. Perhaps a bit unfortunately, returning to her old self meant that, after her initial burst of affection for him, she became a bit more standoffish again. She hadn't said those three words again since that first time, but then again, neither had he. Perhaps they didn't need to… or perhaps they should have, but both of them were too surly and emotionally hesitant to initiate it.
They returned to the familiar pattern of eating meals together, and reading books together. She still insisted on having him read from Advanced Magical Theory, which was ridiculous, because he could see her eyes glazing over whenever they did. It was a very dry text, and well beyond the range of what Calista could possibly hope to understand, and he had no idea what she liked about it.
They were in his office one day, he marking essays and she writing in her journal. It wasn't the same journal, though. Curiously, after their psychic battle with Bellatrix, blank pages had stopped appearing in Calista's journal. She'd told him that she could still read what was already there, but there wasn't room to write anymore. Her birthday had come shortly after that though, and he'd bought her a new one, a larger, hard backed one with a yellow cover and gilt-edged pages. It wasn't enchanted in any way, but she seemed to like it. She had it now, balanced on her knees, which were drawn up onto the seat of the extra chair in his office, and she scrawled a quill across the pages, making an even, scratching rhythm.
She paused, and the sound of the quill paused with her. He glanced up; she was looking thoughtfully around at his office walls, hung with a dozen or more of her drawings, all but one of them cats. The odd one out was a stick figure that he supposed was meant to be him, wearing a cloak and stirring a cauldron.
"You have to take these down," she said, "Before I start school."
Since her birthday, when she'd gotten her Hogwarts letter, she'd started nearly every conversation with the word "school". That, combined with the fact that he'd caught her waving a quill around and pretending it was a wand last week, gave him the distinct impression that she was excited about it.
"I was thinking I would hand them out to everyone, during your first Potions class," he said, sounding serious.
"You're either joking, or you're a murderer," she said, "Because if you did that, I would die from embarrassment."
Murderer. Why did the word, even still, even when it was used in a joking fashion, always give him an uneasy twist in his gut?
"I'll take them down," he said, "When we leave for the summer."
"Leave?" She set the quill into the binding of her new journal, and closed the cover, still balancing it on her knees. "What are you talking about?"
"The Headmaster wants you to spend the summer away from the castle. Students aren't allowed to stay over the summer."
He could see her disappointment at having to leave temporarily warring with her excitement at being called a student. "Where are we going to go, then?" she finally asked.
"I'm working on a few things," he said, "We'll rent something for the summer."
"We could live in Hogsmeade," she said, hopefully, "And I could walk to the pet store every day."
Severus let out a delicate snort. "If you're paying, for the rent and for all the mangy little beasts you're likely to drag home."
"Yellow is not a beast," she said, defensively.
"I would beg to differ, both from a zoological standpoint, and from a personal one," he said drily.
"I don't know why you hate Yellow so much. He likes you."
"Oh, is that so? I'm not sure I've ever known anyone to show affection by stealing my socks and growling at me from under the table - ah, actually, I suppose he could have learned the second one from you."
"Excuse me? You know full well I only growl at you from across the table, not under it."
"Semantics," he said. She made a face, and opened her journal, picking up the quill again.
Severus watched her wordlessly for several moments. They hadn't discussed what it had been like, for her to decide to remember after all, but he knew that it must have been difficult, to relive them, relearn them, all at once. He had tried, once or twice, to broach the subject, but she never wanted to talk about it. Of course, he knew that she hadn't quite regained all of her memories, but if she felt their loss, she hadn't said so.
Some day, he knew she would find the scars on her back, and ask about them. He would have to think of something to tell her, something that wouldn't require him to lie outright to her, or to return the missing memories too early, before she was equipped to defend against Bellatrix. He'd risked asking Poppy if they could be removed, when Calista was in the hospital wing; whether or not the mediwitch recognized the pattern they made, she had recognized that they couldn't be healed away, through Muggle or magical means. That, of course, meant that Bellatrix had used some kind of Dark magic in making them, but whatever it was hadn't been in Calista's memory of their origins; but then, she had had her face pressed into a sofa cushion for most of it, and had been trying to disassociate from it, so it was no surprise that her memory wasn't clear.
Losing those particular memories had seemed to help her. She still had nightmares, but they were back down to perhaps one in a month, and they didn't seem to be quite so intense. He still felt a jolt of alarm in his own mind when she was caught up in one, but when he went to her room to check on her, he could wake her up fairly easily, and she seemed to realise where she was and who he was almost immediately; sometimes her heart would be racing and she would be afraid to go back to sleep right away, but there had been no more frightening panic attacks, no more instances where he was afraid she might hyperventilate. She seemed marginally less shy, too; she'd spoken to Dumbledore, briefly but politely, once or twice, and she had met the gamekeeper Hagrid on one of their walks, and managed a stuttering "er, hello" before scurrying behind Severus to hide. At least Hagrid had taken it well; he'd seemed more amused than anything else.
Still, he had to wonder if she was ready to begin at Hogwarts as a student. Academically, of course, she would do fine, would even begin with an advantage in Potions, but it would represent a lot of changes for her that he wasn't entirely sure she was ready for. She would be sleeping somewhere new, with roommates her own age. The last time that had happened, it had been in the orphanage; he hoped it didn't bring up too many memories of that for her. She would be constantly surrounded by her peers as well, and would have to learn how to get along with them. In general, she'd need to get used to speaking with people that weren't him, because she'd be expected to contribute in class, and she'd never make friends if she didn't talk to the other students. Perhaps, once she was Sorted into one of the houses, she would find something in common with the other students, and even make some friends; he could hope so, anyway. He didn't want her to be lonely, like he had often felt.
There were other, smaller things, too. If she had a nightmare, he wouldn't be next door, able to come and comfort her. And she still wasn't very good about remembering to comb her hair; every few weeks he had to cast a detangling spell. She didn't seem to care much about her appearance, but he was afraid some of the other students might tease her. And then, there was the fact that if she did speak to other people, she was more likely to argue with them than anything else. Maybe he could try to socialise her more over the summer, find a neighborhood for them to stay in with other children around. Of course, the downside of that was living in a neighborhood with children around… it would be nearly as annoying as living near a pet store, actually.
He frowned, and returned to marking essays. He would figure this all out later. For now, he was just glad that she was here, and more or less back to normal. Everything else, they could work on.
When the weather warmed, Severus took advantage of the first Saturday without rain to take Calista for a walk outside. It was difficult to imagine that in a few months, she would have the same free reign of the castle and grounds as the rest of the first years; it suddenly struck him that eleven seemed awfully young to be allowed to roam at will. Of course there were certain place she couldn't go, but those were easy to figure out - the Forbidden Forest, the Restricted section of the library… whether or not going there was allowed was in the name of the place. Perhaps all the eleven-year-olds were the reason why, he thought.
They walked by the greenhouses. "You'll have Herbology class in there," he told her.
"Why do I have to learn how to grow things? Isn't that what the apothe-whatsit is for?"
"And how do you think the people that stock the apothecary know how to grow things?"
"I would rather just take Potions," she said, "And Defence Against the Dark Arts, of course. I guess Transfiguration, too. Not Herbology, not History of Magic. What else is there?"
"You'll have to take all five of those classes for at least five years," he said, "As well as Charms and Astronomy. Oh, and Flying lessons."
"What?!" She looked up at him, eyes round. "No way. I'm not taking Flying."
"Really? You don't want to? All of the other first-years seem to like it."
"Well, they're all stupid, then. I hate flying. I won't do it."
"How do you know if you like it or not? Have you ever flown?" In truth, he thought he was going to catch her in an assumption she'd made without any information. He expected her to say that no, she hadn't tried it, but she surprised him.
"Yes, and I hated it. That man, the one that took me to the house I was at before the orphanage, he made me fly in this… this big thing, way way up high."
Severus was doubly surprised now, because she had never said much about her life before living with him, except to speak, fairly obliquely, about the contents of her nightmares directly following them.
"Who?" He asked, curious.
"I don't remember his name." She wrinkled her nose. "But he said he was related to her. He… didn't seem to like her much, though."
"Sirius Black," he sneered, and now he remembered that Dumbledore had told him he was the one to take her from Bellatrix.
She nodded. The greenhouses were slowly disappearing from view. "I think that was it." There was a pause of perhaps two paces, and then: "I hated him, and his stupid flying thing. I scratched his face up when he brought me to the orphanage, and I'll scratch up someone else's face if they make me fly again!"
Her face was screwed up in intense frustration; he believed her. He was perversely glad to hear that she had hated Sirius Black, one of his chief tormentors… and glad, also, that she had scratched him. He hoped it left a scar. The fact that she had scratched him a time or two, after a nightmare, seemed irrelevant in the present moment.
Severus had an idea, then. He hadn't yet broached the topic of Occlumency lessons. He wasn't certain if she would like the idea or not, and it would be a burden on top of an already full standard course load, but the solution seemed obvious, now.
"How about another bargain, then?"
"Only if it's a bargain where I don't have to take flying lessons," she said.
"I can't promise anything, but I may be able to have your flying lessons put off for a year or two, if you were to take another class instead."
"What kind of class?" she asked, suspiciously.
"Occlumency," he said, "The Headmaster and I both believe it would be beneficial for you to learn to block your mind from, ah, unwelcome intrusions."
"Will you teach it to me, or someone else?"
"I will," he said, glancing down at her. "Is that a problem?" he added, testily.
"Okay," she said.
She nodded, skirting a muddy patch on the ground. "It's a deal. As long as you're the one to teach me. And the flying lessons are delayed until never."
"That isn't what I said."
"No, but it's what I said."
"When has that made a difference?"
"First time for everything?" she said hopefully.
"Perhaps, but this isn't it. I can try to have them delayed until your second year, possibly your third year at best. And the Occlumency lessons aren't really a choice, so I suggest you accept the deal the way it is, or you'll find yourself trying to guard your mind from atop a broomstick."
"I can't wait until I'm the adult," she said, grumpily, "So I can decide things."
"Ah, if that's what you're looking forward to, I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed. You'll 'decide' based on your responsibilities. Actual options tend to exist only in theory."
"Maybe for you," she said, "But I'll decide everything based on what I feel like doing. I'll never fly, because I don't feel like it. I'll never go to bed, either, I'll just stay up all night forever. Because I feel like it."
"Good luck with that," he remarked, "Just curious - what will you do while you're awake all night?"
"Read books," she said, "And make potions."
He laughed. "You're the worst sort of rebel," he teased.
"Isn't that what you do, when you get to stay up later than me?"
"Sadly, not usually. Most of the time, I have work to do… essays to mark, lesson plans to prepare, things like that."
"I would just decide not to do all that junk," she said.
"And your employer would decide not to pay you."
"Do I have to get a job?" she asked, "It sounds boring."
"The idea is to find a job that isn't boring to you, but I'm afraid you will have no choice but to get one, some day. Unless you want me to turn you into a hippogriff after all, so you can live outside?"
"Can't I just live with you forever?"
He smirked. "Some day, perhaps five or ten years from now, I'm going to remind you that you once asked me that."
"I'll remember," she said.
"I highly doubt that. In any case, if you still want to live with me forever when you're, oh, say, twenty years old, I'll consider it, under certain conditions."
"What kind of conditions? And can I go swimming?" She added, as they approached the lake.
"You absolutely cannot go swimming, which you full well know. As for conditions… hm, well, for starters, no boyfriends until you're thirty."
"Why can't I be friends with boys?" she asked innocently. He did a double-take; she appeared sincere.
"Ah, that's not what I meant. Of course you can be friends with boys."
"But you just said I couldn't. You said 'no boy friends'."
"That's not - you know what? Never mind. We'll discuss the conditions if it ever comes up." If she really didn't know what he meant, he certainly wasn't going to augment her limited knowledge.
"Er, okay." She paused, by the edge of the lake, and nudged a stone forward with the toe of her trainer, so it rolled into the water. "Now can I go swimming?"
Severus rolled his eyes, and grabbed her hand, pulling her away from the lake. "Do you really think that if you pester me enough times I'll change my mind?"
"Not really," she said, cheerfully. She didn't offer any explanation as to why she kept asking, anyway, just walked with him, content for now to have her hand held firmly in his larger one, as they walked away from the lake, Giant Squid and all.
Severus actually began teaching Calista Occlumency before the summer even began. She actually seemed eager to learn, although Severus wasn't certain how much of her enthusiasm was directly related to interest in the subject, and how much of it was a fervent desire to keep Bellatrix out of her mind. In either case, she certainly proved a willing student, if not always a very adept one.
She tried hard, but conscious mastery of occlumency was a different thing entirely from subconscious, involuntary use of it as a form of instinctive protection. Just as a child might experience a timely burst of uncontrolled magic but be unable to perform the same magic deliberately for years yet, Calista was having a difficult time focusing on protecting her mind, though she had been able to do so, at least somewhat, back before she had trusted Severus.
Eventually, it became clear that she wasn't going to be able to draw from her magical potential to conjure a mental shield through his explanations alone, at least not yet; but it was important that she start training early, in light of what had already happened.
He warned her that he was going to use legilimency, but promised to try not to read her thoughts, and then he sent a tendril from his own mind into hers. He could see, immediately, that her mind had changed considerably from what it had been like both times that he had entered it.
The first time, her conscious mind had been a mess, a swirling, disorganised chorus of words and images caught up in a frenzied current, with her psychic core set solidly in the center of it, partially disengaged from her conscious mind; the disengagement, disassociation, whatever one wanted to call it, was symptomatic of the trauma she had seen in her young life. It didn't mean, had never meant, that her mind had to exist in that state forever, but it had meant that, at the time, she had been psychologically trying to distance herself from those memories, to deny them ever having happened in a sense. It was a completely normal and expected reaction, especially for a child, but it meant that she could not process them, and thus not fully heal beyond them.
Then, later, her mind had been under attack, and the threads that quite literally held her up and out of the pit of madness had been slowly dissolving. Her psychic core had been little more than a shade of who she really was, weakened by the battle and unable to do more than survive, and even that had been a struggle, towards the end. There could be no processing, no healing, when her mind was striving only towards staying intact.
Now, it was unlike either of those things. It felt familiar, for reasons besides simply belonging to his daughter. It was closer to the way he was used to seeing minds, as a sort of complex spiral where words, images, memories, emotions, impressions, and a host of other components meandered, darting between chambers and passages. It was not quite as labyrinthine or as sophisticated as the mind of an adult, but it was not difficult to imagine how it could develop that way, some day.
As for her core… threads from it wove themselves in and out of the very walls and floors of the spiral, and memories good and bad coexisted in a fragile balance. He could tell, immediately, that her mind was stronger already, would, simply by nature of having her core, her soul, joined to it so seamlessly, be more difficult to infiltrate. Only one thing was missing; there was no sign of the vicious sea that had once lapped at the structure of her mind, willing it to crumble away. He had told her he wouldn't read her thoughts, but he had to know what had caused this drastic change in her mind, over the course of only a few months.
She was not a different child now than she had been then, and he was not fool enough to think that a few more months of relative happiness would do what nearly five years had only begun, which left only one thing: the missing memories. He had known all along, since the first time he saw inside her mind, that the memory of how she had gotten the scars on her back were by far her darkest, the ones that caused her the most pain and distress, and all of the newer memories that referenced it, the nightmares upon nightmares, and that final, ultimate one, where Bellatrix had exploited her mounting vulnerability to take control of her mind, had been eating away at the structure of her mind all along.
Which all added up to mean that he had been right all along, years ago, when he had told Dumbledore that he didn't think she could fully heal, could learn to truly trust, without the removal of those particular memories. It seemed logical to conclude, now, that the particulars of that memory had simply been too much for her to process. But knowing that didn't make him feel relief; there was no guarantee that she would ever be strong enough to process them, and yet he knew that someday, she would have to.
Although he had told her the truth when he'd said that a certain sort of strength could only be earned by overcoming terrible things, he knew that it was far from the only sort of strength that one could attain. It was neither romantic or terribly exciting, but there was no denying that it could be effective. It was the same strength, in its simplest form, as the strength one gains from repeated exercise, from a daily run that grew just steps longer each day, each week. It was the strength of practise.
He listened for a familiar hum, a warm vibration, along the walls and tapestries that made up the shell of her mind, touched it with his own psychic tendril.
This, he thought, in her mind. Can you feel the potential, the magic, that hums in your blood, in your mind?
He could feel her concentrating, and then, weakly, a thin fog of the lively, buzzing magic began to seep out of the walls.
Precisely, he encouraged her, and then he took hold of a wispy tendril of the fog, showed her how to pull it up and around the exterior of her mind. It created little more than a translucent curtain, but it was a start. Try and draw more power into it.
He could feel her mind searing with effort, as if it were something she were trying to wrench free from her very marrow. He touched his own thread of thought gently to the gossamer curtain he'd helped her create.
Like calls to like, he said, Stop trying to pull all of your magic out, drop by drop, and instead let what you have here already summon the rest for you.
She shifted her concentration, focused on the shimmery fog, attempted only to thicken it. It worked, slowly. He extended another tendril of his own thought, another and another, and wove them carefully through the wisps of her own cloudy, delicate barrier, showing her how to build a barrier, combining her thoughts, emotions, and magic. When it resembled a thin, rudimentary wall, he carefully withdrew his own thoughts, keeping them only far enough into her mind to see what she did next.
Slowly, he saw her threads of thought, tendrils of magical potential, weave themselves into the spaces he had left in the flimsy wall. She held it, and though he could have broken through it in a matter of seconds, he didn't. This first lesson was only to show her how to begin to construct her defences, to show her which parts of the mind she needed to draw from for protection.
Not a bad start, he told her, mentally. And then, he withdrew from her mind, spoke to her out loud.
"Every time you create a barrier like this, try to make it a little stronger than the last time. The more you practise putting up, the quicker it will be to build. Eventually, you won't need to concentrate on building it; the blueprint will fix itself in your mind, and you'll only need to call on that memory to erect the barrier."
"This is… really hard," she said, her face screwed up with concentration.
"You're not used to using your mind this way, not consciously. It will get easier the more you practise."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. I won't be surprised if you can put up a wall, just like that, in only a matter of seconds, by the end of the summer."
"I'd be surprised," she muttered, shaking her head.
They practised, every day after that, he approaching the edge of her mind, just far enough in to see how she built the wall. For the first month, it took her ten or fifteen minutes, a painstaking process of mentally weaving, stacking, mortaring thoughts and memories together, using her newfound magical potential as a binding agent.
And then, by the beginning of summer, she had the process down to perhaps five minutes, and the wall had grown a bit stronger as well.
They practised, taking only one day off, while they moved into a flat on the first floor of a semi-detached home in a nice neighborhood in South London. It had two bedrooms, both with windows, and a shared garden with the ground floor tenants. it belonged to an elderly couple who summered with their son and his wife and small children, in Portugal, and so it came fully furnished. Some of the furnishings were a bit fussy, but it was affordable, since it only needed to be leased three months out of the year.
It was in a neighborhood where they could easily walk to the high street, and there were a few other children living in close proximity; it wasn't near a pet store, thankfully, and so it met all of Severus' requirements. He decided that he and Calista would both remain at Hogwarts over the Christmas and Easter holidays, at least for now. Perhaps, sometime, he would bring her to Spinner's End, but it was where his old, unsavoury acquaintances were likely to seek him out, if they did, and it seemed practical to keep her away from them until she was strong enough to guard her mind, just in case - not only for the sake of her own secrets, but for his, as well.
Besides, the new flat felt like a fresh start, for both of them - it was well-lit, and there were flowers growing at the edge of the garden, and it was a fenced garden as well, so Calista could play outside with her cat without fear of it running away (although Severus secretly rather hoped it would find a way, anyhow).
She didn't play much with the other children; she was still shy, and given her personality, it often came off as being plain rude. Still, there were a few times when she and the two children that lived on the ground floor would all be in the garden at the same time, and they warily tolerated each other, which he supposed was better than she had ever gotten on with anyone besides himself, anyway.
There did come a day, as Severus and Calista sat across from each other at the kitchen table after lunch, when he probed the surface of her mind, and her flimsy, translucent barrier went up in a few scant seconds. When that happened - when he slipped into the very outer part of her mind, and saw the delicate barrier go up nearly immediately, he smiled.
"Ah, what did I tell you? That was four seconds at the very most; and do you know what day it is? It's only the ninth of August. Not even the end of summer."
She grinned back at him, a rare, full-wattage smile. "I did it."
"You did," he agreed, "Which means that now we can work on strengthening it, to block an attack."
"You're such a Professor," she said sourly, "It's always on to the next lesson with you."
"I'm going to decide to take that as a compliment," he said, mirroring a conversation they'd had once, years ago, on one of their walks.
You're insufferable, he'd told her, a little bit annoyed, but a bit more amused.
She'd admitted to not knowing the word, and then said, but I'm going to take it as a nice thing.
Secretly, he had meant it that way anyway, but he hadn't let on.
You would, he'd said, but he hadn't been able to hide a small smile.
Calista snorted now, rolled her eyes theatrically.
"You would," she said.
A/N: This concludes the story, and marks the end of my re-write. I hope new readers have enjoyed the story, and will check out its in-progress sequel, "The Blood of Your Veins". For prior readers, I hope you enjoyed this expansion/rewrite. I think it needed to be done, and it's more than twice as long now so you really can't complain, right? I've never written this many words in the span of a month, and it was a lot of fun. I do plan on updating the sequel to this story again, and I will do very minor edits to it as well, just to fix things that are inconsistent with this updated rewrite. Thank you so much to all readers, old and new alike, for sticking with this story. If you have feedback, positive or constructively critical, please feel free to leave me a review or send a PM.
Also, to give credit where it's due, the page dividers used in this story are from whitehound's website, and the Britpicker's Guide as well as the essays on Severus Snapes character found there have been valuable assets for both the original and the rewrite of this story.