Title: The Snake's Tale
Age-Range Category: Two
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Regulus Black, others
Beta Reader(s): reg_flint
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): canon character death.
Summary: "Or perhaps in Slytherin you make your real friends."
Severus was standing in the corridor outside the compartment. It was his second journey to Hogwarts and he still felt like the excitement of being able to learn magic was knocking him over. He was nearly knocked over when someone bumped into him. Severus frowned and looked down to see a mass of wavy shoulder-length, black hair falling over a pristine white, frilled shirt. The boy tried to stuff dozens of scattered Chocolate Frogs into his pockets.
"Sorry, I didn't see you.... I wasn't really looking I suppose," he added with an apologetic smile.
Black, the other Black got to his feet and stretched out his hand. "I'm Regulus Black. Who are you? You are in Slytherin, aren't you? I'm going to be in Slytherin, too. All my family has been in Slytherin.... almost."
"My name is Severus Snape. I'm in 2nd year." Severus observed Black's reaction with gleeful expectation.
"Snape? I've heard that name," Black tried to remember and then he grinned broadly, a perfect imitation of his older brother. "Yes, sure! Sirius talked about you. You hexed that Potter for a two days stay in the Hospital Wing. I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr Snape. You can call me Reggie by the way."
The little Black seemed impossible to stop. He was talking, laughing, asking questions about Hogwarts, about Slytherin House and offering Chocolate Frogs.
"Did you really block Sirius' Tripping Jinx? He's so proud that he can pull it off unnoticed. He got Malfoy this summer. That was real fun."
For some odd reason Severus started enjoying the conversation. Regulus Black was talking too much, but not all was nonsense and he really seemed adamant to make friends with his brother's enemy.
The compartment door opened and Lily Evans stuck out her head.
"Sev, do you want to stay in the corridor for the whole journey? .... Oh, you've met someone. She looked Reggie who hastily tried to swallow a Chocolate Frog's head, up and down. "Are you going to introduce me to Little Lord Fauntleroy?"
Regulus seemed mildly confused and looked at Severus for help.
"Lily Evans, a friend of mine. Regulus Black."
Regulus politely inclined his head and shook Lily's hand. "Nice to meet you, Miss Evans."
"Such a well-mannered boy, aren't you?" Lily giggled. "I know your brother. He's in my house, Gryffindor."
Regulus had noticed the slight sharpness in her voice at the mention of his brother. A shadow moved over his face, but he regained his self-confidence soon enough.
"Gryffindors can be all right I suppose. I won't hold it against you, Miss Evans, if you don't hold my brother's occasional lack of manners against me."
Severus joined in with Lily's laughter. She opened the door wider and invited them in. They were just about to enter, when they heard a sharp voice calling.
"Regulus Arcturus Black, what are you thinking of? I've been searching the whole train for you. Come here immediately!"
Regulus froze, pulled a face and obediently turned to his cousin.
"C'mon Cissy, you're not my mother. I've been making friends. This here is Severus. He's in Slytherin. And this is Ms Evans. Can't I stay with them?"
Narcissa Black's face was cold as ice. She gave a curt nod to Severus and pulled the pouting Regulus down the corridor, completely ignoring Lily.
"You're coming with me. Aunt Walburga told me to have an eye on you. We don't want a repetition of last year's disaster. You don't make friends with that sort!"
"That sort? Oh....!" Regulus looked back at Lily. "How could I have known....that they are allowed.....?" he complained defiantly. "But Severus is a Slytherin. He's all right, isn't he?"
"The Snape boy's.... acceptable."
Regulus smiled and waved at Severus while Narcissa pushed him through the glass door to the next wagon. Severus returned the smile and regretted it immediately, seeing Lily's face.
This was going to be a long journey.
At the end of the school year Regulus introduced Severus to his parents at King's Cross. Mr Black was condescending, but polite. He even sent his regards to Severus' mother whom he was kind enough to remember as one of his class mates. Mrs Black reminded Severus of a stone gargoyle.
In his 3rd year Severus spent the last week of the Easter holidays at the Black's house in London. He had never seen a place except Hogwarts so full of interesting magic. Sirius Black had not been at home, neither had been his mother. Mrs Black was visiting an elderly cousin.
Regulus generously let Severus browse the library, under the condition he later joined him flying in the backyard. Mr Black and the ugly house elf let them try any magic they wanted.
"The fools at the Ministry should not interfere with the natural development of young wizards."
Severus thought it were his best holidays ever, though Lily accused him of having studied the Dark Arts. She still didn't like Regulus. Severus had tried to explain to her that the boy didn't know better. He probably had never met a Muggle-born witch before. For all he had known they couldn't be proper wizards or witches.
Regulus on the other hand mostly ignored Severus' friendship with Lily. However when they were invited to the Slug Club he acknowledged that Lily was a remarkably talented witch and one day he told Severus about a tale his elf Kreacher had been reading to him when he was little.
"Kreacher said in the old times Muggles stole babies from wizard families to have access to magic. They left their own frail infants in the crib. That's where the Squibs come from."
Severus had replied that this was utter nonsense. The parents would surely notice the exchange and how should Muggles get into heavily warded houses of Pureblood families.
Regulus shrugged. "Maybe it's nonsense and it can't explain all the Muggle-borns and Squibs, but with witches as powerful as Evans it could have happened. Don't you think?"
Severus realized that Regulus was trying to be nice and repeated the compliment to Lily. Unfortunately it pissed her off. She turned her back on him and he was left standing alone behind the greenhouse.
A few days into third term Severus was walking over the grounds and saw Black standing behind a gorse thicket. He had his little brother cornered. Severus approached them carefully, seeking cover behind bushes and rocks, ready to defend his friend should his brother try to hurt him.
Soon he was close enough to hear them talking.
"Have you really believed I won't find out? You shouldn't have used that counter spell." Black yelled.
"What about the spell? I've read it somewhere. If you wanted it to stay secret, you shouldn't leave your things lying around all over the place."
"You have read it somewhere?" Black's voice was dripping with sarcasm."I know where I wrote it down and I definitely know you couldn't have read it on your own. You have let that slimy snake into my room during holidays. You've let him touch my stuff!"
Regulus refused to be intimidated. "What if I did? We needed to borrow your old Silver Arrow to fly in the backyard. Any problem with that?"
To Severus' surprise Black looked slightly guilty all of a sudden and his reply was very kind and soft.
"I promise to stay at home in summer. We can fly in the yard together. I'll teach you my tricks. But... My broomstick was not in the notebook on my desk. There was no need to search the whole room. No need to let him in."
"Severus didn't search your room! And what does it mean I couldn't have read it on my own? I'm not a Squib. Your protective spells weren't so complex that I couldn't figure out the password."
"Tripped over your own cunning, little snake. There wasn't a password. The notebook recognizes those who are entitled to read it and you lack a few of the required traits." Black suddenly stopped in his rant and stared at his brother, looking thoughtful, then confused, then shocked.
Regulus grinned. "What are those traits you value so highly that I have not and Severus has, if I may ask?"
"That's none of your business,"Black snapped. "Just remember that next time there may be a few surprises to protect my privacy from sneaks, nasty surprises."
Regulus laughed out loud. "I'm so scared and Severus will be, too. If you have nothing else, I have business to attend. See you later, dear brother."
Black followed his brother with his eyes. Then he looked down, kicked a stone into the thicket and walked back to the castle. He looked strangely sad rather than angry.
Severus stayed in hiding until Black was out of sight and he asked himself the same question. What were those traits that he possessed and Regulus didn't?
4th year passed with Gryffindors fighting Slytherins and Slytherins fighting Gryffindors. There were hexes in the corridors, stupid pranks played at every chance, attacks and payback. Lily and Regulus started to sound like the two sides of the same broken record.
"It's only because of your horrible Slytherin friends."
"It's only because of Potter and those Muggle-loving Gryffindors."
Something about Potter had changed in 5th year. He threw strange looks at Lily and started doing weird things in class to impress her. She said she didn't care, but Severus felt like she wasn't completely honest.
It was nearly midnight when Severus finally was allowed to return to the Slytherin dungeon. He didn't want to return. He wanted to be alone, but Professor Slughorn insisted to accompany him to the door. At least he had stopped telling him how abysmally stupid it had been to follow Black's instructions. The scratches from the Whomping Willow still hurt and Severus had no idea, if he was able to repair his torn robes. Neither of this really mattered at the moment. What really mattered was that Dumbledore had treated him as if he was the real culprit. Everybody seemed only to care about the werewolf's feelings and of course how very brave and selfless Potter had been. It didn't matter that Black had tried to kill him!
When he trotted down the spiral staircase after his friend, the hero, Black didn't look as smug as usual. He was pale and avoided Severus' eyes. Feeling guilty? If he was, it was only on behalf of Lupin and because Potter risked his own life to get him out of trouble.
"What was your intention going down that tunnel, Mr Snape?" Dumbledore had asked.
Severus didn't know what to answer. Wasn't it obvious? He wanted proof. Proof to show Lily who still refused to believe that the nice and oh-so-kind Remus Lupin was a Dark Creature.
It wasn't obvious. He saw it in their faces. The teachers, Dumbledore believed that he went down the tunnel to hurt Lupin. Of course, what else? He was a Dark Wizard, wasn't he?
"Nothing," he muttered defiantly.
"Is that all you have to say?" The blue eyes focused on him over the half-moon spectacles. Severus suspected that Dumbledore tried to use Legilimency on him. He closed his mind. He wasn't sure it worked, but he did the best he could.
"Very well, Minerva, Horace, would you leave us alone for a moment? I want to talk to Mr Snape in private."
Then Dumbledore explained that it all had been a deplorable accident, that Lupin should not be made to suffer for his friend's foolishness.
"Foolishness? Black wanted me to be killed!"
"Oh, I'm sure he did not. He just didn't think," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he said that, "of the consequences. Mr Black will be punished according to his crime."
Dumbledore talked about Severus' own thoughtfulness, reliability and a man to be trusted on his word. It was only when he passed the stone gargoyles at the bottom of the stairs that Severus realized he had given his word not to tell anyone about Lupin or what happened that night. He was going to keep his word. He was going to put them all to shame.
Severus had hoped that the Common Room would be empty, but he saw a dark figure moving in a chair as he entered.
"Sev, good Salazar, you look like shit! Where have you been?"
Regulus! The last person he wanted to see!
"Leave me alone, Black!"
"Black is it tonight? Has he done that?"Regulus asked pointing to the torn robes and the visible bruises.
"Not directly. Your brother...."
"....is a prat, I know. C'mon, sit down, have a cup of tea and tell me what happened."
Regulus put his arm around his shoulder and Severus winced. He hardly dared to look into Regulus' face for fear to see pity, but there was only kindness and care.
"I still have some of the salve you gave me after last Quidditch practise, when I fell off my broom."
Severus was much too tired to resist when Reggie pressed him into an armchair, summoned the salve and started treating the bruises in his face, while the kettle was on the fire.
When the water started to boil, Reggie poured a cup and handed it to Severus.
"Give me your robes..... Sev, really ....." he sounded a bit exasperated when Severus wrapped the torn robes closer around his chest. "I need to take care of the ones on your back."
As kind and soft as Regulus usually was, he was used to being obeyed. Severus gave in and Regulus held up the robes, inspected them and cast them on the floor.
"Beyond repair, I'm afraid. For the bin!" He whipped out his wand and pointed to the rags.
"No! I need them! I can't afford...."
"Well, whatever you need or can afford, you can't wear these. Not even my cousin Andromeda could mend them." He vanished them in a flash despite Severus moaning in protest.
"Great, and what am I going to wear now? These were my only warm ones. When will you learn that not everyone can write home to get a new set in two days, you spoiled Pureblood brat?"
Regulus merely grinned. "You can have my spare set from last year. They are too short for me anyway."
"I am not going to wear your hand-me-downs like a beggar!"
"Who said you're getting them for free? I need your help with Potions and Ancient Runes homework and you simply can't help when you're in the Hospital Wing with a cold. I'm a self-serving, spoiled Pureblood brat. It's not like you have a choice. Yours are gone."
Severus swallowed his pride. He knew he didn't have a choice. Regulus continued applying the salve.
"That one looks nasty," he commented a couple of times when Severus cringed at the sudden pain caused by his touch. Regulus sat down on the rest after he finished his task. He looked at Severus who was feeling much better since the potion had started to work.
"What about Sirius? Is he all right?" Regulus asked.
Severus' fury flared up again. "Oh, your brother is fine, not a scratch and he won't be expelled. It was a trap ! A trap to kill me. The coward wasn't even there!"
"Sirius is not a coward!" Regulus said determinedly. "And he wouldn’t set a trap to kill anyone..... not even you!"
"He's a veritable goody-two-shoes, isn't he? Prince Charming! Wouldn't hurt a fly! It was all just a harmless joke gone wrong. And his great friend Saint Potter saved the day and my worthless life!"
"I've never said that. I know Sirius can be a right bastard!" Regulus sniggered nervously. "You see he's my bastard.... my brother and I know him. It helped, if you told me what happened."
"He tried to have me killed, That's all I can say. I had to give Dumbledore my word."
Regulus watched Severus thoughtfully for a moment until he spoke again.
"Well, I've got to ask Sirius tomorrow, if you're not telling."
"Do so! I'm sure he will be completely honest."
"Severus! Sirius has never or will ever lie to me."
"So I am a liar? Is that what you're saying?"
Severus pulled his shirt back in place and stood up.
"No, I'm not. It's one of the things you two have in common. You both don't lie."
Severus didn't reply and went up the stairs without looking back.
Next morning a set of almost new robes lay on the chair next to Severus' bed, a Chocolate Frog on top. Severus put them on. He had no choice.
Regulus tried to talk to Severus after he had spoken with his brother. Severus refused to listen.
"Know what? You two are the most stubborn, bloody idiots I've ever met! I don't care for either of you!"
For the rest of the school year Severus and Reggie hardly talked to each other. Severus kept the deal about the robes and went through Regulus' homework, corrected mistakes and left hints which chapters or books to reread.
After the OWL Regulus looked like he wanted them to be friends again, but Severus glared at him like he glared at everyone else.
The letters which arrived during the summer Severus returned unopened. In early August Regulus' eagle owl brought three letters in one day. At the third it refused to return to sender and picked at Severus furiously to make him read the letter. The bird only gave up, when he threatened to hex it.
Two weeks later Severus met Evan Rosier in Diagon Alley. Rosier told him that Sirius Black had left his parent's home for good. It had caused quite a scandal. The Blacks had disowned their eldest son and pretended he never existed.
At King's Cross Severus saw Mr Black say goodbye to his younger.... his only son and leave without looking at Sirius who was laughing much too loud with Potter and Lupin. Regulus looked like he was about to cry, but then he grabbed the handle of his trunk and pulled it to an open compartment door. Severus jumped off the train and put his hand beside Regulus'.
Regulus jerked his head and his mouth twitched between a smile and a suppressed sob.
They lifted the trunk into the compartment together, got Severus' trunk and settled down close to each other. Regulus was still staring at his feet and biting his lip. When the train started moving, Severus put his hand on Regulus' shoulder.
"The Bloodtraitor isn't worth it...."
"Neither is the Mudblood!"
Both boys pretended that they believed in their own lies.
The Gryffindor attacks on the Slytherins became less public, but all the more vicious during 6th year. They had stopped pretending they were just jokes. Potter showed some nearly Slytherin cunning by trying to keep his fights with Severus hidden from Lily. Black turned his back when his brother was near.
When they fought they usually all ended up with Madam Pomfrey.
If Severus had hoped to get a chance to talk to Lily during Slughorn's parties, he was disappointed. She ignored him completely and talked only to a few Gryffindor and Ravenclaw girls.
Perhaps it was for the better, because Lucius Malfoy and another former Slug Club member, Nott, frequently attended as very welcome guests. They were taking a keen interest in the academic achievements of the young Slytherins.
Slughorn was very pleased with the development.
"What Severus lacks in ancestry, he makes up with magical talent. If you, m'boys," Malfoy and Nott smiled haughtily as he called them his boys. "just give him a start, he'll make his way."
Malfoy and Nott declared that shouldn't be a problem. Malfoy even winked at Severus.
Slughorn also tried to recommend Lily to the two Purebloods. They listened and nodded coldly. Lily's reaction was even colder.
"Thank you very much, Professor," she said with her most winning smile pointedly reserved for Slughorn only. "but I don't think the two .... err... gentlemen could be bothered with the likes of me."
Slughorn wanted to protest, but thought the better of it as Lily had already returned to her friends.
Regulus was happy that his friend finally received the acknowledgement he deserved. Nobody except Slughorn was fooled. Malfoy's appearances at the Three Broomsticks on Hogsmeade Weekends — by lucky coincidence — buying rounds of butterbeer for all the boys, made it even clearer. The Death Eaters were recruiting.
Regulus made a point to pay for his own and Severus' drinks himself occasionally and imitated Malfoy's arrogant glance with amazing perfection.
"Cousin Lucius needs to be reminded that we're not his inferiors."
During the holidays Malfoy asked for samples of Severus' potion brewing skills. Severus was delighted to supply them, especially since Malfoy paid for all the necessary ingredients. The deliveries were generously measured and there was always some stuff left for Severus' own experiments.
The boys which also included Evan Rosier, Mulciber, Wilkes and Avery met at least once a week at different houses including Grimmauld Place to discuss politics. At Malfoy Manor they met the Dark Lord himself. They were all spellbound, literary enthralled by the greatest wizard of their times who made a speech about a world ruled by magic and the opportunities on offer to those who dared to cross the limits set by those narrow-minded bureaucrats at the Ministry.
He spoke to each of them in private for a few minutes and he knew of their individual strengths and their deepest desires. Severus suspected the Dark Lord used Legilimency like Dumbledore had done and tried to hide his thoughts. The Dark Lord seemed mildly impressed rather than angry.
"We both know that while magic blood is important, there are always exceptions."
Severus couldn't believe the promise which lay in those words, but he was ready to do his utmost to make it come true.
Regulus and Severus went to London together after the meeting. When they were finally sitting in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, enjoying Kreacher's sandwiches and a hot cup of tea, Regulus said: "He promised that those who see their errors might be forgiven in the end. Do you think there is a chance for my brother?"
Severus doubted that there was a chance that Black would ever see his errors, but he himself was so taken by the thought that an exception of the rule could be made for a witch like Lily that he nodded. Regulus smiled hopefully.
A few days after Severus had finished Hogwarts, he knelt down in line with his friends and class mates. Their heads were respectfully lowered. The Dark Lord walked down the line, stopped at each of his new Death Eaters, ordered him to roll up his sleeve, look into his eyes and receive his Mark. Severus was shaking inwardly at the finality of the act, but he held out his bared forearm steadily. Regulus and Evan did the same, though the change of colour in their faces at the burning pain was more noticeable. Avery whimpered slightly, but he fell quiet when the Dark Lord frowned.
An apprenticeship at St. Mungo had been arranged for Severus as promised. The Dark Lord wished for him to continue his education to a higher level. He hinted that one day all his skill would be used in a special task for the cause of wizardkind.
Regulus meanwhile had returned to Hogwarts. Severus was glad that his friend would be spared for another year. He himself continued to brew potions for the Dark Lord in his free time. Healing potions, protective potions, but also draughts that influenced the mind and will of the drinker. There were very few deadly poisons however, a curse was quicker and cleaner. Not that Severus really cared what his work was used for. Perhaps he did — sometimes, but the other side wasn't conjuring flowers.
They spent Christmas together, peacefully. Regulus was eager to prove himself. He was counting the months until he could really join the fighting forces and do something useful. Severus was partly amused, because Regulus' idea of fighting the Aurors or Dumbledore's lot was two knightly wizards facing each other in a fair duel. He was nearly as good with duelling spells as his brother. What would happen when the two brothers met in a fight? They had always gone out of their way to avoid it. Both of them, Severus gave Black that much credit. There had been one or two occasions when Black blocked a curse Potter fired at Regulus and Regulus had interfered with one Severus aimed at Sirius. Time would tell.
Mr. Black died of natural causes in the spring. Severus attended the funeral to stand by Regulus' side. Regulus Arcturus Black, Master of Noble and Ancient House of Black! All Severus could see was a little boy gathering up Chocolate Frogs and stretching out his hand to make friends. When they were standing in front of the family crypt, Regulus turned his head searching for someone who never came.
Regulus disappeared without a trace and was pronounced dead a few months later. The Dark Lord raised his goblet in honour of his name.
Nobody knew what happened. Many of the Death Eaters believed he was killed by the enemy. Severus wondered what Black thought of it and if he still cared.
Shortly after Lily's son was born and Severus had to realize that under the circumstances he couldn't trust in the Dark Lord's promise to spare her, his questions about Black were answered. The Dark Lord boasted he had a spy in the inner circle of the Order of the Phoenix. People started dying by the numbers. In the end Black had chosen the love for his brother over Gryffindor. Regulus would have liked that.
Severus' choice was equally clear. He had chosen Lily over the cause of wizardkind. He hoped that Regulus would have understood that too.