Title: The Waltz
Beta Reader(s): sionna_raven
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): mildy dark!fic, minor angst, Snily.
Note: There is a pattern to the chapters, see if you spot it.
Summary: None provided.
Jan 9 1971 Diagon Alley
Severus held onto his mother's hand. It was his eleventh birthday. The day was freezing cold, and the winds were skinning. Snow swirled around the two people as they walked down a long, narrow cobbled street. Its stone and brick walls and store fronts were shining with ice or piled with snow. Severus slipped and Eileen Prince-Snape righted him, sliding a little herself. Severus' clothes looked worn and baggy, his adult's trench coat whisking through the snow behind him. He was quite thin, as was his mother.
They both looked around as they approached their goal, Severus over his left shoulder, Eileen over her right. Ollivander's looked warm and welcoming with its single wand resting on a pillow in the display. Severus reached for the doorknob then withdrew it, his knuckles freezing. He felt foreboding as if his father Tobias had been there to cut him down.
"It's all right, Ollivander won't bite you," Eileen said and Severus opened the door. The cart ride at Gringotts had been fabulous, but had made him queasy. Nowhere near as queasy as he felt at the thought that he was getting something that would prove he was a wizard. He had never given a second thought to needing to prove that fact, but now ... what if no wand chose him? He'd been here before to bask in the aura that emanated from, the wands. He didn't use those words. He thought, "This is sooo cool. A wand made for me and just me is waiting!" A hint of glee in his thoughts back then, now gone.
Ollivander was old, and had a sense of mystery about him that no eleven year old boy could wrap their mind around. He was a little creepy, Severus thought. He stepped up to the desk. "Mr Snape," smiled Ollivander with his spooky eyes, "Yes, I remember you. Hard to forget those eyes."
"I could say the same," Severus remarked cuttingly, and Ollivander smiled more widely and he pressed a wand into Severus' hand, then another, and again another. Nothing. This was frustrating. The old man gave him seven consecutive wands and on the eighth try a wand that was Rowan, dragon heartstring, inflexible, thirteen inches made every light in Ollivander's shop gutter for a moment, and something blue-green sparkled at the wandtip. Severus' eyes were wide and his hand unusually warm as it gripped the wand. It had chosen him. He was a wizard. Mum forked over thirteen Galleons, half of her savings. But Severus wasn't thinking of that. This wand meant so much more than the letter. He couldn't wait to show Lily!
First Year, Journal Entry one week into classes.
Severus sat on his elbows in bed, writing furiously. He kept looking around to see if anyone noticed him writing. They didn't. Severus smirked to himself and wrote:
"Things are moving very fast. I can't believe it's a week already. And I found out the names of the wankers on the train from Lily. James Potter and Sirius Black. Go figure, a Black in Gryffindor. I'm kind of stung over Lily landing there too. If only she could have been in Slytherin- but I'm kidding myself again, she's Muggle-born. The stinger is still stinging.
There's a boy whose bed is next to mine, all those cool green velvet hangings and silver-embroidered bedspreads. His name is Evan Rosier and I think I might be his friend. My second true friend. One of the prefects, a tall boy called Malfoy, told us off before we could blink that new students are honour-bound to be true to our own, loyalty come what may. I was nervous but now I know Evan I think it's kind of cool. I like the dungeons, they suit me. And I could answer every question my Head of House asked in Potions but I kept quiet. I don't trust him. He's a big fat buffoon. The other teachers are OK, I like McGonagall's sharp tongue. It's so sharp I can sharpen my own tongue on it. An older Ravenclaw boy caught me reading The Advanced Book of Unusual Hexes and said it's a Sixth year book and did I understand it. I nodded kind of mean-faced and he asked why I wasn't in Ravenclaw and I just said I was too clever for that. He just looked hit. HA!"
Hogwart's Express, end of First year, trip home
Evan Rosier was opening chocolate frogs. Lily was sitting with Mary MacDonald and she was pressing her nose against the foggy window, trying to see out. Severus Snape was slit-eyed as he glared out of the compartment doors. Sirius Black was leaning against the entrance of the next compartment . It was hard to mistake that slick git. Lily called Severus' name three times before waving her hand in front of his face. How could he have missed such a blazing red head?
"What?" Severus snapped jerkily, scratching at his oily black hair.
"I said, too bad Gryffindor or Slytherin couldn't have won the House Cup and Championship. Ravenclaw are getting high and mighty." Lily and Quidditch. Severus would have to try out for his team next year.
Evan was frowning. "When aren't they ? And Gryffindor are already high and mighty," Rosier said and Severus nodded his agreement with a twisted smile he couldn't help. Mary with her straight brown hair and large liquid eyes looked outraged. Lily looked from one to the other. "Be friends, all right?"
Severus didn't like Mary at all. He glared at Lily, and she had her hands on her hips, a fierce look in her glinting green eyes. "Fine. But I won't pretend whose team I want to win next year," Severus spoke very softly but the words were still easy to catch. Evan nodded. Mary looked embarrassed. Severus had won his point and spent the rest of the trip home playing wizard chess with Evan and listening to Lily and Mary screeching kitschy Muggle songs so highly pitched that they'd make dogs howl for miles around.
Late August 1972, Diagon Alley
Eileen was trying to take Severus shopping for his school supplies. He hid in Flourish and Blotts so he could look at some of the more spectacular Potions books, the ones with the most macabre illustrations he could imagine. Eileen found him and tried to pull him out by the arm, but Severus snarled that he wanted to walk twenty paces behind her. He loved his mother but he wasn't a baby. Tobias had seen to that by the time he was six years old, Severus thought bitterly.
He followed her winding path through the crooked alleyway so brightly lit by the sun. He consented to join her in the shops. When they went to the Apothecary, both Severus and Eileen dragged their feet to examine everything.
Eileen then pointed to a small dirty sign reading "Knockturn Alley." Its finger pointed down a shabby half-concealed passage, an alley that he could see had to be the place he read about, where bloody riots had taken place, where plots were hatched, where dark artefacts and illicit potions came a Knut a dozen. He even knew the names of some of its establishments. It beckoned to him and it repulsed him. They slipped through the mouth of the alley. The sun didn't seem to shine here. Everything was as if overcast. A witch walked into Severus, and he was about to snarl at her when his mother kicked him and he said, "Excuse me" in a toneless voice. Why? She was carrying the first human skull he had ever seen.
He almost wanted to leave. He really felt like his stomach had evaporated. Then it became solid, because his second best friend, his Slytherin friend Evan was visible through the crowd. Severus broke away from his mother and moved swiftly to greet Rosier. Evan was holding a pack of dirty playing cards spattered with blood.
"Curse cards!" Evan said enthusiastically, shoving them under Severus' large nose. Evan had a rosy complexion and was jovial and round-faced. He looked like a small angel, but Severus knew and liked Evan better than to describe him that way.
Eileen was at Severus' side. "Stay with me. We're going into Borgin and Burkes. Don't get lost down here."
Severus looked from Evan's grinning face and the bloody cards to the door of the shop and thought of the piles of books at home on the Dark Arts that suddenly seemed twice as interesting.
"I'm already lost down here," he said in a silken voice. Evan clapped.
Second Year, Journal Entry one week into classes.
Severus' reflective mood was copied into words on a page as he sat in a huddle in the Second year dormitory which was deserted. In writing angled and cramped, in deeply stricken words he wrote:
"For the last week I have waited for Regulus to get sick of me, but he seems to like me for other reasons than the fact I am the person his brother most loathes in the world. He looks up to me and I like that. I think he is the only one who does. And he gets along with Lily though I can't stop him muttering that I'm hanging out with a "Muddleborn". Evan calls her Muggle-born but I bet he calls her Mudblood under his breath. I'd wonder why people have to give pedigrees to magic but she must be part magic somewhere. She can keep up with me in Potions. Almost. She is better at Transfiguration. She meets Regulus and I in the evenings in the Great Hall sometimes just to study. I don't really study the way she does. I get a general idea then get the small parts and forget anything in between, I make it up as I go along.
Anyway. Regulus was sorted same as me, and he thinks the right way, even though he's just a kid, a pipsqueak First year. So now I have three friends, and I hope to have the same three friends when I am old and die. Especially my best female friend."
Hogwarts Express, end of Second year, trip home
Severus was still sneering at the Gryffindors. Lily was huffy and he didn't blame her. Regulus tried out for the team and made reserve Seeker and no one thought they'd use him in that final match against Gryffindor, but Seventh year seeker Terrance Jugson had a mysterious head injury. They play dirty like we would, Severus thought, and we hate them for it. Life isn't fair, ha,ha. But the way Regulus had caught the Snitch! Lily was sick of it and had gone to another compartment with Mary.
The trees and fields flicked past but Severus, Regulus and Evan were too busy mooning over the winning of the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup to notice. Severus was a reserve Keeper but he hadn't had any game play. He was only interested in being Keeper because James Potter was a Chaser. He had to be that git's opposite.
He was getting absorbed in nasty books but not to the exclusion of all else. He was keen to keep his grades high and was already gritting his teeth over his O.W.L.s. But he didn't shout that he was bright. He didn't need to. Regulus referred to him as a Brain. He was logical, a problem-solver and shrewd at it. Like his Mum said, astute.
He didn't want the trip to end. It had to. And all his happiness about the House Cup sifted out of him as if through a sieve with large holes when he saw his mother's defeated body language as the train puffed to a stop. That couldn't mean anything good was happening at home. He felt a strange pity that he hated, because he hated being pitied and pitying above may other ills. What had made her shoulders slump and her arms hang in front of her? He felt an angry tear and fought it. And won. Now he had to see what this was about. He knew he was right on the train. Life wasn't fair, ha, sour ha.
Late August 1973, Diagon Alley
Since Severus' mother was refusing to do magic, Severus did his shopping for his third year at Hogwarts alone. He hadn't mentioned what his mother was doing to anyone, or wasn't doing. Not even Lily. He was starting to get strange romantic dreams with Lily as the focal point, and daydreams as well. This perplexed him. He kept his eyes open for her when he went shopping, He'd scheduled around her and he was late because he had to stop and read a bit of a book in a junk shop in Knockturn Alley.
Severus hadn't mentioned his "back-alley transactions" to Lily. She listened to the Gryffindors too much. She didn't have the same experiences as him for him to... care about her. He had red hair appear on his pillow and fake roars from his housemates. There was the Gryffindor banner that Mulciber and friends tried to make him wave, but Severus resisted with fury. The hair unnerved him, but closer inspection showed it was slightly coiled, and Lily's hair was straight as a die. Now he was going to meet her, it all seemed worth it, just to look at her. What had happened to innocence? For he had been, and not known it.
His father Tobias was drinking a lot again. Tobias had beaten Mum so badly for using magic around him that she pretended not to be a witch. She'd even tossed her wand into the filthy river Severus lived near, down at Spinner's End, and Severus had retrieved it minutes later without her noticing. She never asked how Severus got so wet. He had slid the wand into a gap to the side of the desk drawer in his bedroom. Hopefully he'd need it.
He walked down the narrow, twisting alley underneath a sky of cerulean blue. Should he be happy? Bah! He knew the money he had from Mum's vault wasn't enough, even with second-hand items. The store fronts mocked him with their shiny wares. But he was sick of feeling second class. He wouldn't be humiliated any more by Nott and Mulciber, and especially not the Gang of Four, the Gryffindors that pointed to the world to show how strange and dark and "evil" he was. The gang of Potter, Black, Pettigrew and Lupin that had hexed, jinxed and cursed him time and again, and he always got boiling mad, yet cool as the North Sea as he defended his right to be the "decent Slytherin" he was to Lily. It was so messed up.
There she was. Thought was stifled for a moment as warmth entered his chest. He shook his head and let reason re-enter his mind. But his heart had leapt at the sight of her just as it had when he was nine years old as he observed some of her first magic. He knew she didn't feel the same way. He felt this like a physical blow. But still, that red hair. And the power of her magic. If only Severus could find some way to make use of his love. That was it, it was love. A joy and an ache. Like a feline that purred all feral in his chest.
He ran into the brilliantly coloured Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour and bought two towering vanilla-strawberry swirl ice creams. He knew he was being a fool, there went the price of Intermediate Transfiguration. Maybe he could borrow a school copy. Lily took hers and kissed Severus on the cheek. He flushed horribly. He thought that she'd never reciprocate and he knew for certain that he would never show her his feelings, that they remain friends, forever, eternal.
Third Year, Journal Entry One Week Into Classes
Writing a secret journal was very irritating for Severus. He never knew when he'd be interrupted so he was writing in a deserted stairwell, night creeping up slowly, writing quickly to avoid being late and getting caught by Filch.
"That was some surprise this week. I never knew I'd be able to attend all of those classes. Professor Slughorn, known as Slughead by me and Evan and Regulus, and Professor by Lily, gave me something that made me almost imitate a horrendous Gryffindor. He told me it was a time-turner. He told me the rules for its use and I sounded just like Potter. "You're giving this kind of thing to Slytherins?" He found this amusing, the dolt.
Lily shows no sign of having one. I suspect she didn't sign up for everything. Well, everything but Divination ... she and I agree it's a waste of time unless you're the right sort of witch or wizard. And that's rare. I still have Potions and Transfiguration with Lily but she's not taking Arithmancy and I told her she's mistaken not to take Ancient Runes. "What for?" she asked. I forced myself to keep my mouth shut, for most of my knowledge of runes comes from old texts with titles like Code and Rune: Symbol and Meaning in Dark Rites. Too many weird books at home and anywhere I look at long enough. Lily started making excuses for me liking Dark stuff. As if Potter doesn't or Black at least seeing he comes from a family darker than most other respectable Slytherin homes. But I have a time-turner and no one else I care to mention has one I think. Repeating hours... but I'll keep the blessed rules.
Love is a panther forced to wear a spiked collar and run on a lead. That's all I'm saying on that topic."
Hogwarts Express, end of Third Year, trip home
Severus wanted to sit with Lily. Evan and Regulus wanted him to keep away from the lioness. Severus wanted to sit with Evan and Regulus too, but they didn't smell nice or have green eyes. Regulus had black hair and clear, slate grey eyes, just like his brother. But though Regulus loved to laugh, those eyes remained serious and intense. Those eyes told him to sit, and normally he might play along, but Lily was a girl, and he was a romantic fool.
So they took seats after wandering the passageway looking for seats. Evan and Regulus sat with Mulciber and Avery and Nott. Severus slouched into Lily's compartment and was met with a derisive snort from Mary and a wary look in their three Hufflepuff friends' eyes. This would be torture. One of them had to play wizard chess.
He had a better time than he would have expected, as there were three chess matches that trip, and even giggling girl-puffs couldn't stop him noticing that Lily stared at him slightly more than usual, and she flushed several times, as though hit by his searching gaze. If Lily would let him stay at her place, he wouldn't do anything to her. He'd stay in that guest room of theirs. And Regulus promised that he would ask for permission to let Severus come to Grimmauld Place. Sirius was going to the Potters.
The best home is perhaps away from home, Severus reflected, taking a rook with his bishop. Hogwarts was home most of all.
Late August 1974, Diagon Alley
Walking down the street with a furtive gait, nervously peering around him as he turned from shadow to more rain, Severus emerged into Diagon Alley with Regulus. They had met in the nearly deserted and dusty Leaky Cauldron, where Regulus arrived by Floo Network. Regulus was going to do his shopping alone, refusing to be with Sirius. He said it was because he felt that his brother had abandoned him. Severus thought it was more like the theft of a possible Slytherin, using Gryffindor's style of cunning.
He smiled grimly as the rain hammered down, washing the store fronts. Did the other Gryffindors put snakes in Sirius' shoes? He smirked as they entered Flourish and Blotts but had abandoned the expression when they went to Twilfitt and Tattings in Knockturn Alley. It was just a robe store, it seemed, but they catered to a more "pure" clientèle and Regulus wanted to buy Severus dress robes, black, same as usual but of the finest cotton Severus could imagine, and a slightly winged collar.
"I can get dress robes some other time, besides..." he sneered, "if that's your taste then..."
"They're very nice, ingrate," Regulus smiled. He was too used to his friend's outbursts of temper to pay Severus heed.
Severus pretended to zip his mouth shut and he ended up with a set of dress robes and two sets of work robes. He didn't like having things bought for him. He kept quiet through Regulus' monologue about genealogy all the way through buying their sets of new phials and beakers. Severus bought one more book. The Art of Knowing and the Art of Shutting Out: A Study in Legilimency and Occlumency. It was in the "Olde and Obscure" section. Just a random bit of reading, and "the art of shutting out" was precisely what he wanted.
He'd spent a good deal of the summer holidays with the Blacks, where he was treated like vermin by Regulus' mother, but Orion, Regulus' father, treated him like a welcome oddity. Nothing out of the usual, really. He was happy to be with Reg, and he had something else decent in his life – Lily had invited him for the last week of the holidays. He was amazed at how utterly normal, even mollycoddled, she was. But she was Lily, and his negativity turned into idiocy around her. That's how he knew it must be, how it always had been. Rational thought and Lily couldn't be within thirty feet of each other. He had a good time there and while still thin he looked at least slightly fed when he left the Evanses.
When around Lily, he wanted to be alone. When alone, well... he wanted her head on his shoulder, listening to her prattle. Regulus didn't tease him about it any more. Nor did any of the Slytherins. They'd grown used to the anomaly but Potter never would, and he saw the way Potter's head turned to Lily. He'd keep him off her before she even noticed what was happening. Even if she never paid him back. For his own sanity.
Fourth Year, Journal Entry One Week Into Classes
Regulus was the one Severus thought of as he wrote the following entry:
"Regulus seems to want to hang a lot with Mulciber, Avery and Antonin Dolohov. Whatever. They're all in over their heads, they don't know what they're playing with. I think I know. It's called power and any person who is honest with themselves knows they want a piece of it, a big piece, as big as possible. It can bring good or ill, and it's addictive. And it bites the same as it blesses.
But I value Regulus beyond other snakes, maybe even more than a lioness, in a different way. Evan isn't as smart and Lily isn't as objective.
Lily's friend Mary is acting like the dunderhead she is. She thinks I like her and acts coy. Make me sick, MacDonald is the last person I want to be with. I want to use some subtle hex that robs her temporarily of speech whenever I am around. Seen and not heard. Preferably not even seen.
The time turner is a pain and I am not even tempted to use it for anything other than study. It makes the days dreadfully long already, and it's hard to redo hours of sleep."
Hogwarts Express, end of Fourth Year, trip home
The train hadn't left the village of Hogsmeade for more than five minutes before Mary MacDonald did something quite disgusting. The windows were streaked with grime. Less disgusting than Mary.
Lily looked at Mary with a gaping mouth, like she was the subject of Edvard Munch's The Scream, only with far less meaning. Mary had been threatening this for months without knowing that Severus knew it. He was nothing if not observant. Severus regarded her with glittering eyes, and Regulus and Evan were miming vomiting behind the girls' backs.
"It's true, Severus, I love you so much. You have such a tragic life, and no one can understand you the way I can. I just want to be your girl. Just please take me, as I am, the way I take you." The words streamed from MacDonald's mouth as if she had rehearsed them a hundred times. Severus did not need to rehearse his answer, but he weighed his words anyway.
Severus snorted slightly, and said, "You understand nothing. You are raving, delusional. Stay away from me. I'd like nothing less than to hold your hand." He looked at Lily and gave her a small smile and Mary burst into horrid tears, that streamed down her face as she bolted from the compartment.
"That wasn't funny, Sev! Did you slip her a love potion?" Lily demanded.
Severus looked at Lily, his black eyes cold. She really didn't understand he would never do such a thing? And with Mary, the daft bimbo? Regulus righted things.
"Severus doesn't use potions on weaklings, and definitely not a love potion on a person with tripe for brains, or anyone." Swift defence was sure to come with Regulus Arcturus Black around. Evan nodded his rosy-cheeked, blond head and picked his teeth.
"I didn't and why ask a question if you know the answer?" Severus snapped. Lily recoiled but gave him a hard look, meanness in her eyes. "Perhaps I didn't know the answer," she said coldly.
"Mudbloods," Evan muttered to Regulus, and Severus nodded without thinking. Lily ran after Mary, shouting for the world to hear, "Severus Snape is a bloody idiot!" He cut her, she cut him, fair enough, but Severus didn't want more blood shed. Gryffindor had already won the Quidditch Cup and House Cup. He didn't want them to win, for Lily to have a reason to get huffy.
Late August 1975, Diagon Alley
Summer had lasted too long for Severus. He and Lily hadn't sniped at each other or mentioned the fiasco of Mary and love potions. Not at all. Lily had spent the entire summer at Mary's in Leeds, and he waited for her to show up in Diagon Alley, sleeping on a bench in the parlour of the Leaky Cauldron whenever it emptied, sometimes very late indeed. Now he was sitting in the sun outside Flourish and Blotts, sitting on the pavement reading as usual, keeping a wary eye for Potter and an eye on the book being analysed before him.
His Mum Eileen was still refusing to show any magic, but it blasted out of her about once a week, and made anyone wise not be within hexing distance, and also within bat-wielding range of Tobias. Severus couldn't have stayed at home. Sirius had been partially at home that summer and Regulus' usual owls were the same: visit at your own risk. Apparently Sirius Black and his parents had had another huge row, and even with Sirius gone the household had turned sour, for Regulus had taken to sleeping in Sirius' room, waiting for the fight to be over.
Speak of Godric and he will appear. He sensed them before they were upon him, and his impenetrable, inscrutable gaze didn't show the resentment and sheer force of will that kept his wand in his pocket, underage among all the onlookers.
All of them swaggered, except Lupin, who may as well be a nonentity. Never stops his mates from acting the heroes versus the slimy dark git. Severus wished he could bring every book in Spinner's End pile on their heads, or those of Flourish and Blott's, much more practical. Knock sense into them. Or the bricks in the building behind them. Have them pelt at the Quad like bullets. They were all fool enough to never have heard of a bullet. Pampered purebloods preening in every house, but these were smug. His hand quivered on his wand.
"Hey Snivelly, what are you reading?" James reached out and grabbed the book from Severus. Severus swiped through the air but was unable to retrieve it. "Hm." James pretended to think. He would have to pretend, Severus thought. "Dark Arts, Dark Arts, or...it's Beyond Good and Evil by some idiot whose name I can't pronounce. My he does think he's something. Philosophy."
"Ooh!" A lofty tone from Sirius. "No one likes you, wouldn't even if you took a bath." They loved making him mad but he was no longer showing it. The Art of Shutting Out was winning. Along with the sly distance that surrounded him.
"Hand it back!" Severus said firmly, expressionless but for the ears, and they hadn't picked up on that...yet.
"Whatever you want. You're lucky today. Live to hex another day, Snivellus?" And people said Severus sneered. They pelted the book at him. He flinched and jerked his wand out of the pocket of his robes. They were walking away, pointing back at him and laughing. He supposed they were too noble and chivalrous to attack – when surrounded by witnesses of underage magic. Bloody heroes.
Fifth Year, Journal Entry One Week Into Classes
Severus was preoccupied as he scribbled in his text. Scrawling his chicken scratch writing, he formed the following sentences:
"Everyone is nervous about the O.W.L.s. I'll probably use the time turner for extra study hours, but not too much. Extensive exhaustion awaits. I just noticed how the Fifth and Seventh year Slytherins are acting, like they will rip off anyone's head who interrupts their study. I'll know most of the material by the time the exams come. I'm not a dolt, I know what is likely to be on those papers and in those practicals. Standard wizarding knowledge with a few items for flair and to catch the unwary who don't pay attention or know how to follow instructions. Who never do extra research. Dunderheads, in other words.
Regulus is less tearful. Sirius actually spoke decently to Regulus in the corridor in the Charms department. Black blood, strange, dark and dangerous as ink. Regulus still makes me laugh, but he's a Fourth year and can't understand why I should snark at him when I'm trying to read. A few extra texts for interest and of course exam fodder.
At least Lily is back and smiling even if still self-righteous. She hates it that I'm on friendly terms with Mulciber, he can be foul but really he's a decent guy, just has some rough edges. I had to bring up Potter and she was cold toward James - enough to make me float ten inches off the ground. I won't let Mulciber near her, but I'm not the Fifth year dormitory guard dog. Not against my own house.
I'm not prefect. That Lupin's one and I can't believe Lily's not one. They picked Miss Love Potion MacDonald. Not the first time I wonder if the house elves have been bribed into adding Mindlessness Concoction to the staff drinking water. Evan is prefect. Good. He is at least somewhat sensible, docking points from Gryffindor wherever possible. I may cross lines of grey magic but I never cross house lines. The only borders are inside my heart."
Hogwarts Express, end of Fifth Year, trip home
Severus sat "by himself" in a compartment full of Ravenclaws. Rain hit glass hard, streaking the windows, the water moved blindingly fast over the glass. It was a gale as well, but nothing to the torrent hidden in Severus' thin frame. Even thinner than usual. The prank that had nearly killed him was enough to make him fume, but he wished he could fume the same over Lily. No, he thought, I won't think of it at all. I'll just bear it like torture from moment to moment. He didn't want to remember, but he couldn't forget. He had to come up with strategies to keep the hex-demon Potter away from his withering flower.
From her attitude after his verbal slip, under strain she'd never even imagine, from not taking him back, he knew she had never really known him. But he couldn't allow his tongue to do more damage especially in his own self-defence. He stared at the tears on the window, whipping away only to be replaced by more spattering of woe, the window of the train mirroring his insides. Ravenclaw chatter, worries about their O.W.L.s. ... they could go on forever, dulling his pain with their monotony. He had to sit apart from Regulus and Evan. He didn't want solace or reasons why the split with Lily was such a good thing. He glared at the tears streaking down the window. He paid no attention to what was outside, just the way the water seemed to glisten like a silvery thought pouring into a Pensieve.
"Severus, stop acting like a fool and come and sit with us. It's just Evan and me, and some Hufflepuff that's asleep. Don't you want to celebrate with us?" Regulus asked, one black eyebrow cocked far above his other, accenting those slate-grey eyes, twinkling.
Severus sighed heavily and turned away. The eagles looked nervous at the idea of two more snakes being in such close proximity. They hushed. Hands reached in and Severus was pulled from his chair, Regulus holding his left hand, Evan grasping him near the left elbow. "We won we won we won!" Evan gibbered, "Come on, Regulus made sure we took that House Cup with getting that speedy little Snitch, and I bet old Slughead is happy to have it in his office. Come on, you only let in two goals. Regulus is a hero, and so are you, just forget..."
Severus twisted this way and that jerkily. "Fine!" he snarled and something ran through him like an electric current. His wand and his hand had met for a second, and he used it. The other two let go of him.
"...Wizard Chess?" Evan asked tentatively when they had navigated their way back to the nearly empty compartment where Regulus and Evan had been sitting. It had stopped raining, the window was just left with a few tracks. A weak sun shone through the window. Regulus handed Severus a cauldron cake. He did not want to go home, but he'd done research into St Mungo's, the only place he wanted to work, and had read of summer programs for both trainee Healers and volunteers. Parental permission was not a problem. Maybe the sun showed some promise after all, and the windows would clear, leaving undefinable loss that could perhaps be withstood.
Late August 1976, Diagon Alley
Severus had a small pile of books beside him as he ate in the Leaky Cauldron. They made decent bangers and mash. He was smirking very slightly, a half-smirk. He could pay for the books with ease he was unused to. He had found a benefactor, Terrance Jugson, a Healer who had taken Severus under his wing within ten days of Severus' arrival at St Mungo's. He even had enough money for the Hand of Glory. Now that he could afford it he really didn't need it. He left Knockturn Alley well alone this year. He didn't have to.
For Terrance Jugson was a Death Eater. Hush, hush and heady. But he said he wouldn't take Severus to the Dark Lord until he had proven himself – and come of age. Sensible. But how ironic that he found the darkest path in a hospital, so full of light and life. Life and death. Severus still believed in goodness, in the rightness of his actions, which was daring to be what you could be with no restraints, good people like Terrance that gave him wings and showed him how to fly, protected him while he learned. The opposite of what was expected; his contacts should be through the supposedly dark Slytherin Common Room, not a Healer.
Severus had admitted that he was learning Occlumency and Legilimency, Jugson saw these as great skills to have and allowed Severus to practise on him – how to focus his intent more keenly, and how to become a cunning void.
Now he was in Diagon Alley and had spotted that blaze of red that could only mean two things – either Weasleys or his former friend, girlfriend perhaps. He winced at the sun in his eyes. It was her! Maybe she could learn new tricks, or how to make use of old ones. He crossed the street and bought the same ice cream as he had given Lily years ago – vanilla-strawberry swirl and towering. He didn't have to go without to buy it, maybe that would impress her. His new status as 'paid volunteer'!
Lily deftly moved her narrow body through the crowd and Severus went to meet her with his eyes black and blazing as if on fire. She saw Severus. She looked at the ice creams as Severus stretched one out to her. Already it was melting a little. Her eyes widened, then closed as if she were an Occlumens of distinction. She turned away, and didn't change her pace, just treated him like a hat stand. Or vermin not worth any reaction.
He wasn't hungry. He had a room of his own and board to go with it. He had everything he needed, everything but Lily, and her love. He shoved the two ice creams into a bin outside Ollivander's. He had a wand, food and shelter, Os and one E in his O.W.L. results and a firm tread in his ambition. What difference did love make, he wondered as she melted into the crowd?
Everything. And he knew it.
Sixth Year, Journal Entry One Week Into Classes
The September sun glimmered on Severus' quill tip, outside in the fresh air, glinting metal as he wrote:
"I found out something interesting today. The idiot four are self-styled "Marauders" by their own description. I found out by listening to them snicker around a corner down from the Charms corridor. They're up to no good. I even heard one of these "Marauders" solemnly swear to it. They have their own concept of what is good. Well so do I, and I'm ridiculed for it. They're admired. Life is such a basket of roses.
Regulus is in shock at his brother leaving Grimmauld Place forever. There's some story about being burned from the tapestry that grows all over the place, a family tree. I think Sirius did them a favour. The Bastard doesn't deserve to be a Black. I hate to say Sirius and I are somewhat alike. But I am glad to say the differences far outweigh the similarities.
I am already delving into N.E.W.T. material. I still have Mum's copy of Advanced Potion Making; neither she nor Tobias have bothered to find out where I am. I'm not going back there. I like humble dwellings, but humble dwellings full of egotistical, drunken Muggles and witches gone mad are too much to bother with.
I've got to keep the standard up, but I can only work when I feel inspired. I think I will do even better on my N.E.W.T.s because I have something that fires me: Healing. And while life and magic has darker aspects, I never let them influence actual healing. I can quote the Healing books front to back. Oh no, I have no ambition, Evan, unlike you and your piddling pseudo Death Eater friends who have no known vocation. So blatant. You have to have a sense of subtlety."
Hogwarts Express, end of Sixth Year, trip home
Severus was muttering to himself as he watched the treetops being gilded with sunlight as he passed the time thinking. He wondered if the idiots who got off free from attempted murder were somewhere on the same train still laughing about their oh-so-fun adventure. Lupin was a little less permissive, but he'd better be after the werewolf had tried to attack him. He'd spotted the werewolf, and Potter must have had some way of protecting himself, or he never would have gone to fetch Severus.
"Sev?" Regulus asked. No response from Severus Snape. Severus heard his two friends muttering.
"Severus!" snapped Evan, who was friendly again.
"...it would be easier if I could have Evans," Severus said to the window, in a very low, inaudible tone. He saw Regulus and Evan, who were a little subdued. Gryffindor had taken back the Quidditch and House Cups. What use was a Cup or two? It mattered. It did, because it was the Marauders' team that won, even if Pettigrew and Lupin didn't play. The two that mattered were on their high Hippogriffs. Severus wished he could unseat them.
"Severus!" Regulus waved a hand in front of Severus' face.
"Yes?" Severus snarled. He looked at his friends.
"You have an owl. It's from your old place at Spinner's End." A tawny owl with extra long talons came through the window Evan had opened. Severus' heart thundered. He relieved the owl and flicked the letter open.
Son, I will meet you at your new home in London. It is time I left the past behind, and left your father. Time to reclaim my magic. I'd like it if the junior healer with a small bit of gold could buy his old Mum a wand. Meet me and we'll make a trip of it.
Severus smiled, a lump in his throat. He had her wand in the gap in his desk in his childhood bedroom, in case he ever needed it. He pocketed the letter and smiled a real smile.
"What is it?" Evan and Regulus asked in the same breath.
"My mum reckons she's a witch again. And Tobias is history." There was a cheer from Regulus and Evan punched the air. "We knew true blood would win out!" Regulus grinned.
Late August 1977, Diagon Alley
Evan was easy to spot in Knockturn Alley. Not too many people looking like a baby food commercial progressed to a teenager skulked this twisted alleyway, cobblestones uneven and store fronts full of pelvic bones or cursed bangles, all mixed with sandalwood incense to steal away the stench of rot, but never fully mask it. "Evan!" Severus hissed in Evan's ear, making him jump three feet. "Calm cool and collected aren't we? I have news."
Evan turned, relieved it was Severus and not the warlock selling illicit potions, hawking the Morphium Draught only allowed in hospitals. And speaking of hospitals... "I'm slated next trainee Healer! Right at the end of Seventh year. And Jugson is paying my fees. And he's going to take me to the Lestranges at Christmas break, I'll get to see the genius behind this dark arts brilliance. More a master of death than any kid's stories could tell." Severus knew of the tale behind the Peverell brothers, but it was another fairy tale, in its own way.
Evan stared at Severus, jaw slightly open, then admitted, "I've been to the Lestranges. Listen, don't look at their books. They've got some cursed ones, singe your eyeballs right though to the brain, for instance. Look." Evan pulled Severus along with him into the shadows. Severus didn't like being led like a tame dog to do his business in a corner. "What?" Severus spat. Evan took a step back. "Watch it. I have loads of tougher friends than just you. No, watch." In a shadowy corner Evan slowly brought up the left sleeve of his robe. A serpent and a skull, interesting. Wound together with the serpent's head protruding where the mouth should be. It didn't suit the thick blond hair or shining blue eyes, not at all in league with his rosy, round face. Severus, on the other hand, was the Dark Lord's poster boy, only maybe not so skinny.
Severus looked and memorized, then told Evan to put it away. He needed no explanation. This was the Protean Charm for the flesh. Clever indeed. He'd read of it. "Don't show Regulus," Severus asked sharply. Evan dropped his sleeve and nodded. The two of them slipped out into Diagon Alley to purchase books. They were joined at noon by Regulus, outside the Magical Menagerie. He wasn't sleeping in Sirius' room any more. He had his duty to be what the eldest son should have been.
When Regulus asked about Jugson, Severus told him he'd be learning his profession from him. He neglected to mention professions, plural. Why he was so protective of Regulus, he didn't know – perhaps Severus had to act the older brother Sirius could never manage. Without the benefits of being the eldest pureblood. Charming. Sirius just bloomed roses wherever he went. Regulus deserved better. Severus didn't make friends easily but when he did, they were thick as thieves, and not to be toyed with.
Seventh Year, Journal Entry One Week Into Classes
The future. Severus was completely taken by the future. He'd always seen in future terms but never had it danced so near – dreams and wishes and above all, ambitions. He outlined a few of his thoughts thus:
"I spent my entire first week back arguing with Evan. He wants to drop out of school and not bother with N.E.W.T.s and he wants to work in the Goblin Liason Office. He can if he gets the marks, Slughead really likes him. Regulus might drop out of Sixth year if Rosier leaves and not only do I want him to do well, I want a friend here at school. Even fellow snakes think I have a touch too much venom and such extra large fangs. So my sarcasm is cutting and I'm not a cheerful Hufflepuff. So I trip-jinxed Pettigrew. If anyone should drop out, it's him. He couldn't manage a Dreadful. Sheer Troll. I wouldn't have done it if he hadn't grabbed a Third year's green and silver house scarf. He is nothing a decent curse couldn't fix.
Regulus says his mother is refusing to speak, in grief and anger. What is this denial thing? Are all witches in denial? Lily is in denial of me, Mum refused magic for a while. But it's not just witches. Regulus is denying that his brother is a git, I deny that Lily has better things to think of than me, has her own terms, a life in which I play no part. Thanks for the meat cleaver to the heart, Lily. I apply the pressure. We all deny something.
I'm going to be a Healer. And work for the Dark Lord, keeping an eye out. I do not wish to be involved in life and death except with healing hands, not gripping the wand that has produced death by green light. I abhor violence, I need not do anything base unless there is a logical, reasonable premise for doing so. Who gives life should not also take it away. I have my principles."
Hogwarts Express, end of Seventh Year, trip home
Field after ploughed field whipped past, the scene through the window peaceful and dotted with cows. The Hogwarts Express chugged along, puffing steam like an old warlock's pipe, and Severus leaned back in his seat, the future looking better than should be possible. It couldn't all be true.
Severus' Mum wanted to him live at home with her while he apprenticed to Terrance Jugson. He couldn't imagine living anywhere else now Tobias was gone, and he was paying his way and helping clear up. Severus was as adept at cooking as at Potions. Eileen was back to work as seamstress for Twilfitt and Tattings. The terrace house would be welcome as it never was. He'd lived rough and at Hogwarts spoiled, he'd lived with drunks and wanderers and wizard children of the streets when he was sleeping on the bench at the Leaky Cauldron, doing odd jobs for Tom the Barman, waiting for Lily.
He was still waiting for Lily, but he had a girlfriend now. He allowed himself a small measure of comfort in her. He knew she was second best and she sensed it, but stayed with him. Lorraine Flint, a short, dark, curly-haired gawky blue-eyed girl. Just another of the girls who had wanted him to notice them, who he had always ignored. She sat next to Regulus, her head on Severus' shoulder. He supposed he wouldn't remember who she was ten years from now. But the wizarding world was a small place. If only Lily would get jealous...
It was too good to last. But Regulus had stayed in school and he'd taken the Mark at barely seventeen. Evan had left early, but Regulus hadn't followed him, thanks to Regulus' overdeveloped sense of responsibility. And Severus? Two missions to find crucial information, used as a spy because the Dark Lord had been impressed with Severus' formidable Occlumency and Legilimency. He didn't have to dirty his hands to get the dirt. It suited Severus fine. He was at the apex of his life... excepting the day he'd gathered the nerve to first speak with Lily Evans.