Title: The Rebirth of Severus Snape
Age-Range Category: Three
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape
Beta Reader(s): unbroken_halo
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Note: Thanks to Iuls for the opportunity to write for this fest once more, and to Halo for the encouragement along the way
Summary: The transition from Death Eater to Professor is one Snape never expected to experience.
Battered and bruised, spirit broken, Severus Snape stumbled along the winding path leading from Hogsmeade village to Hogwarts. His body was ravaged by the effects of the Cruciatus curse, and he hardly felt the cold of the snow that fell around him in great clumps. His breath came in short puffs that clouded the air in front of his eyes. Finally, he reached the stone steps he'd been aiming for, and staggered up them. Just before he collapsed, exhausted, he managed to turn the handle and tumbled onto the flagstone floor of the Entrance Hall.
When Severus first awoke he wasn't certain where he was. His vision was blurred and his ears seemed to be full of cotton wool. A metallic taste lingered on his tongue and his teeth felt fuzzy. All he could hear was the occasional murmur from somewhere far from his location. An antiseptic odour teased his olfactory centre and slowly he realised he must be in the Hogwarts Infirmary. He attempted to push up into a seated position in his cot, but was too weak and so he fell back against the pillow, and lost consciousness once more.
Gentle hands took his pulse and manipulated his limbs, and Severus felt the magic of a diagnostic spell wash over him. Madam Pomfrey, thought Severus hazily. He tried to open his eyes only to find that he couldn't. He tried to make a sound to let her know he was waking up but his long-unused vocal cords failed him. Severus' hand had turned to lead, and his muscles had no strength to lift it. Those same, gentle hands tilted his head up and brought a phial to his lips. Before Severus could identify the potion being poured down his throat, he succumbed to its sedative effects.
Severus sensed the Headmaster's presence even before Dumbledore spoke to him. The words weren't important, not as much as the forgiving tone in which they were said. Still, Severus struggled to awaken, fighting against the potions and spells that were keeping him asleep. Merlin, he'd never slept so much as he had since his return to Hogwarts. His escape from the Dark Lord. Somewhere in the depths of his drug-addled brain, Severus knew that the sleep was to aid healing of his injured body, but what he really needed was to heal his fractured soul.
Lily! Severus awoke bathed in sweat, gasping for breath. He remembered, then, how he'd been unable to save the only true friend he'd ever had. Not that he'd been a friend to her, in the end. Struggling to prop himself up on his elbows, and finally into a seated position, Severus swung his legs to the edge of the bed and rested his feet on the floor. The stone floor of the infirmary chilled the soles of his bare feet and Severus allowed his body heat to seep out through them. Nothing could match the numbness in his soul. Severus sat there, on the edge of his cot, until the shadows had moved across the floor.
A dull ache in Severus' abdomen was making itself known when he next awakened. It had been so long since he'd thought of food that he hardly recognised the hunger pangs for what they were. On the bedside table was a tray of food: clear broth, kept warm under a stasis charm, some crusty bread, and pumpkin juice. Severus had always hated pumpkin juice, but he knew that if he did not consume all that had been left for him, not only would his recovery be delayed, but Madam Pomfrey would insist on feeding him herself. That was an indignity he could not bear.
The dreams returned, reminding Severus over and over of that fateful night in Godric's Hollow. Night after night, green spell-fire arced from Voldemort's wand to Potter and Lily. How the baby had survived was beyond Severus' comprehension. Night after night they perished; death by Killing Curse. Each time, Severus awakened breathless, panting, skin moist with sweat. Some nights, the dream came twice, even three times. It was those times he considered asking Madam Pomfrey for a draught of Dreamless Sleep, but it was those nights in particular that made him feel something other than numbness in is soul. No, he would not ask for the potion. Feeling like this was better than not feeling at all.
Go for a walk, she'd said. Severus was well enough to walk, and the fresh air would do him good. Not up to climbing the stairs to the Astronomy Tower, Severus chose the path to the lake. Students were in class, so he saw no one as he shuffled gingerly through the corridors and out the doors he'd collapsed through so many days ago. How many days had it been? Severus wondered. Perhaps a fortnight... A thick blanket of snow covered the grounds, and lay heavily on tree branches. Warming charms kept his feet dry and his toes toasty as he trudged his way to the lake. He stood at the edge, looking for signs of life in the chilly waters. The merpeople would be far beneath the surface where the waters were warmer. The giant squid surfaced briefly, waved one long tentacle as if greeting him. Severus returned to the castle.
Stronger now, no longer on a diet of broth and bread, Severus decided to venture to the observation deck of the Astronomy Tower. His footsteps echoed against the stone walls of the staircase, leaning heavily on the handrail. The air was cool when he reached the top, and he felt a sense of foreboding as he stood at the parapet, staring out over the grounds. The stars were bright in the winter sky, and the gibbous moon provided sufficient light to see movement in the Forbidden Forest. By the shape of the shadows, Severus thought it might be centaurs. Somewhere above him, an owl hooted before alighting on the wall. The great horned owl presented its foot, to which a scroll was attached.
"Do have a seat, Severus," said Headmaster Dumbledore as he indicated the chair opposite his great desk. "Sherbet lemon?"
Severus perched on the edge of the proffered chair and declined the candy. "You wished to see me, Headmaster?"
"Please, call me Albus. If you accept my offer, we'll be colleagues, after all."
Severus was taken aback. His left arm bore Voldemort's mark, and he'd joined the Death Eaters willingly, of his own volition. Now, his salvation had been offered in the form of a teaching position, a regular salary, and a home away from the bleak existence he'd expected to lead at Spinner's End.
"Surely you don't want a Death Eater influencing youngsters, Headmaster. I'll take my leave." Severus put his hands on the chair's armrests and pushed himself up to standing.
"Severus Snape," Dumbledore commanded, pointing at the chair once more. "Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone, even a former Death Eater, is entitled to a second chance. Hogwarts needs a Potions Master, and you, young man, are the best man for the job. So what do you say?"
Severus would have been a fool to decline. And Severus Snape was no fool.