Chapter 1: No Peace no End
"Look… at… me…"
Green eyes met black as Severus Snape took in one last shuddering breath. The final beat of his heart sounded loudly in his ears. He willed his last thoughts to be of what those green eyes invoked, memories that and brought him heartache and comfort in equal measure.
Eyes that belong to a woman who had once seen the best in him.
And a boy who was destined to die.
I failed her…
That was the last thought that accompanied him into the darkness. That smothering all-encompassing darkness, where no light, sound or thought existed. He would be stripped away, his intelligence, his will, along with all the pain and regret.
Or it should have been.
It suddenly all came rushing back, like breaking through the surface of water he awoke, alone and whole in the light. Snape gasped, scrambling to his feet, almost tripping on the hems of his robes. His body responded immediately, light and agile, unhindered by his years of neglect and physical wear. He stood, blinking, staring out into the vast expanse of white.
He breathed out slowly then no more, and then he understood he was dead. This was what was on the other side.
With a dark scowl Snape cast his eyes out at the silent white domain. If this was his hell then it couldn't have been more fitting. He couldn't think of a worse eternity than to be in a place devoid of all mental stimulation or distraction. Alone with only his thoughts.
He lifted his left sleeve, revealing the black stain upon his soul. The Dark Mark that he willingly took, a permanent reminder of the atrocities he cannot be forgiven for.
Did he not do enough? Was his remorse not enough to save him from his own mistakes? Was his sacrifice not enough to redeem him?
He roared into the silence, filled with frustration and anger. Did I not do enough?
Another voice pierced through the silence.
"Greetings Severus. I see that peace has not found you yet."
Had he a heartbeat it would have been sent racing.
"You're dead!" He hissed at the man strolling towards him, the figure who took the form of Albus Dumbledore.
"As I was last aware." The old Headmaster replied, smiling his aggravatingly serene smile.
Clad in his midnight blue Dumbledore stood before him, his hand no longer blackened and shrivelled by the curse that accompanied him into death. Because this was death, and Snape realised Albus Dumbledore might become his only company in this hell of eternity.
That was almost a relief.
Snape's scowl receded as he muttered to his dead companion. "I thought I could finally rest."
The Headmaster offered a comforting smile and told him. "You may." Then shook his head sadly. "But you won't." His piercing blue eyes stared right through the weathered spy whose mind shields rose upon instinct. "You cannot find peace within yourself because you are unable to let go of anything."
"Was death not supposed to take that from me?" Snape demanded.
Dumbledore gave him a sad smile. "If death was all it took to wash away regrets, then ghosts would not exist."
Fear pierced through him. Was that his fate? "I will not become a ghost." Snape bellowed at the infuriatingly calm man who looked so nonchalant they might as well have been discussing the weather and not the possibility of eternal damnation.
"My dear friend. I would wish nothing more than for that to be so." Dumbledore told him in a quiet voice. "But you have laid those chains upon yourself. Wrapping it tight about you in life. How do you expect to be free of them in death if you do not let go?"
"Let go?" Snape rasped. "Were it so easy." The anguish of his remorse, the rage he felt to those that wronged him at every point in his life. The pathetic excuse of a life he led. To have faced all that alone. "You weren't there." He hissed at the headmaster. "My final year. What I had to do. What I endured for the sake of your plan. All for what? This is all I have to show for my efforts?"
Silence settled into the white world once more. With a gentle smile Dumbledore spoke to him in a quiet solemn voice. "I had just met the Lupins." Snape looked at him sharply. "Both Remus and his wife, Nymphadora."
So all the Marauders are dead. Good riddance. He almost voiced the thoughtbut he could not find it in him to revel the triumph.
"Not just them." The old man continued, sorrow bleeding through his calm. "Collin, Lavender, Fred..."
Severus' heart dropped with every name. Students, past and present. Some he did not remember and those he was tasked with protecting.
"I am waiting for Harry now." Dumbledore finished, and Severus could not stop the rage from contorting his features.
"You sacrificed him you old fool! You don't get to feel remorse!"
Dumbledore's eyes softened. "Were there any other way Severus. You know I would have taken it. Neither of us could have saved him in the end."
"I did all I could do." Snape muttered, defeated. The rage bled out of him as the dread of failure pressed upon his still heart. A sad ode to his life.
Dumbledore nodded. "This time the blame is not yours."
The old Headmaster stepped around, forcing Snape's eyes to follow and to his surprise, arrived at a basin he had been certain wasn't there when he last looked. It was pure white and set upon a marble stand. A bleached replicate of a Pensieve dish.
The surface rippled and memories bubbled up from the liquid. His own memories. Dark ones of abuse, of isolation, of soul crushing loneliness.
But then a glimmer of light, a girl's smiling face shone up at him, green eyes glimmering in delight.
His heart clenched at the memory of the one person that made his life have meaning, along with the regret that would define him as a human being.
And then her eyes turned sad, and he could not watch any longer.
"What is this?" Snape growled. "I do not need reminder of my failures."
"Failures, Severus?" Dumbledore shook his head. "These are your regrets."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "I beg to differ Severus."
The Headmaster stepped around the basin, watching those private memories with seemingly unaffected eyes, then spoke softly. "Love is a mysterious thing. As is death. Things that the Department of Mysteries dedicated itself to solving, and yet still find themselves flummoxed after all that effort."
Dumbledore's piercing blue eyes lifted from the Pensieve. "Time too is such a mystery."
Snape frowned, his sharp mind barely following Dumbledore's vague words, willing him to just get to his blasted point.
The Headmaster smiled his twinkling enigmatic smile. "Your regrets chain you to the living Severus. And while that may be the last thing you want it puts you in an interesting position. Because your deepest most desperate regrets are from a time so long ago."
"Am I to be trapped in my past?" Severus whispered, the idea too horrifying to speak aloud.
"Not trapped." Dumbledore offered gently. "You should never think of living as akin to being trapped."
Severus frowned. "Live?"
"Well you certainly can't be a ghost during a time when you're very much alive." Dumbledore smiled.
Severus frown deepened as what he was told formed his horrifying conclusion. "You're sending me back to relive my regrets?!"
Upon the Pensive, Lily's scornful eyes turning from him as if he did not exist.
Watching her hold hands with Potter, by the edge of the Great Lake.
Her scream, as the Dark Lord struck her down, and she crumpled to the floor lifeless.
"No!" Snape roared. "I will not! I cannot…" He grit his teeth. "Live through that again."
Dumbledore regarded him sadly once more. He waved his hand over the basin and the final image of Lily faded. "What if I were to tell you, that not all of that needs to be." The image returned, of the scorn filled Lily, staring at him, unmoving upon the surface.
"If the loss of her friendship was the only regret you needed to relive."
Snape stared upon that painful image, eyes widening.
"Everything else would be up to you."
Black eyes narrowed as he regarded the crafty old Headmaster. "If I am to erase my regrets to just the one then no matter the outcome, there will be no chosen one."
Dumbledore smiled. "And in that you are unique Severus. To have the intelligence and cunning, skill and will, to be able to use the weapon I hand you."
Withdrawing a wand, the old wizard pressed the tip to his temple and withdrew a silvery thread of memory. The strand landed shimmering into the Pensieve, blurring that one memory of Lily still displayed. Images flashed to the surface, a quick succession of pictures that even Snape's sharp eyes couldn't discern.
"Information." Dumbledore smiled as the memories stopped upon a still image of a ring set with a heavy black stone, held between two old and weathered fingers. Poised to slip it upon his left hand along with the curse upon his form. "A weapon most useful in the hands of a Slytherin."
"A weapon also most useful in the hands of a man with power." Snape growled. "Need I remind you at that time I was nobody."
Dumbledore did not seem phased. "Indeed Severus, so I think you know what you must do."
Bring this knowledge to Dumbledore. The still living Dumbledore of his time. To pledge his service once more.
For the chance to save Lily.
"I will do what it takes." He almost whispered.
The Headmaster smiled. "Most Commendable. Then I leave you with one last gift." He took the wand to his temple once again and dropped another strand in. The memories swirled quickly once again but did not stop and distinguish themselves. "So that you may know you are not alone." Mismatched grey and black eyes graced the surface of the Pensieve, staying just long enough for Snape to register the image.
"Go now Severus. And Good luck."
Without awaiting instructions Snape stepped forward and plunged his face into the Pensieve. The world shifted and he was falling.
"You Killed her!" A young man screamed, his form an indistinct shape.
"It wasn't my fault." A second blurry man insisted. "If only you hadn't-"
"Gellert. Please." A third voice, spoken as if from his own mouth.
That was the bizarre dream Snape awoke to. One he did not understand but knew intimately as one of deep regret and sorrow. He lay there sweating, heart racing from regret that was not his own.
But the fact that his heart raced meant his heart was beating.
Snape sat up with a gasp, the movement caused a smart of pain he could not identify. He held his hands up in front of his face, flexing his fingers. His nails were cropped short with sharp corners and rough edges bespeaking of ill-maintenance, but uncracked, not yet flaking and mostly unstained. His fingers, while thin and callused, were not yet roughened by his years of dedicated potion brewing, not yet scarred by his many brushes with his silver knife, and not yet lined by age.
He lifted his sleeve and his heart leapt to his mouth. His arm, skinny and pale, but unadorned by his greatest folly. No grotesque skull face grinned back at him, no reminder of the gravity of his sins. However even as that thought graced his mind he seemed to still feel it, like a phantom limb. It was branded upon his soul, like so many of the ill choices he had made.
Snape brushed the deep green curtains aside on his four poster bed, realising with little to no uncertainty he was in the Slytherin dorms. That meant he was still of school age, but which year?
Stepping quietly down from his bed, feeling the chill of the stone floor upon his bare feet, Snape crept to his bag. He could not find his wand beneath his pillow, a place it would eventually be kept during his attempts to sleep. That meant he was still of an age where he had not yet developed his paranoia.
His hands closed around the smooth and familiar ebon handle, feeling the relief and reassurance of familiarity. With a quick silent flick he pulled the wand free of his bag and cast before him a time keeping spell.
Five in the morning. He thought as the numbers materialised before his eyes. And the date is? He swished the wand again.
Snape sat back as the numbers formed before him, feeling numb inside. It was the sixth day of September, 1976. Almost a week into his sixth year at Hogwarts. An entire summer after when Lily last spoke to him, and would never speak to him again…
Sweat broke out upon Snape's brow, suddenly it felt as if he were suffocating.
Cold running water streamed around his ears. Snape held his head under a running faucet, his pulse throbbed in his ears, slowing as the cool water took away his anxiety.
He turned the handle slowly easing the water away. He withdrew dripping as he straightened to level with the mirror, looking himself in the eye.
She's alive. And don't you forget it.
A young familiar face glowered back at him. His eyes were not yet lined but were naturally deep set, giving his already dark eyes a sinister look. It was perhaps the only thing resembling a redeeming feature on his otherwise regrettable face.
He bared his teeth, crooked, as they continued to be later in life, but at least they were unstained as of yet from the years of abusing Potions of Dreamless Sleep that was soon to follow. His hair hung sodden around his ears, clumped together from the moisture and undoubtedly the grease he could not escape from in his youth and more often than not, his adult life.
His thin sallow face pulled the skin around his cheekbones, making his already prominent nose seem comically ill-fitting. He could see his tattered nightshirt hang off his thin bony frame, his collar bone sticking out of his frayed collar, he could imagine the ribs that must show beneath. His entire physique bespoke of poor nutrition, a very believable outcome of being two months away from Hogwarts. He was never adequately fed at home, and even less so during his rebellious years.
Why did I ever think there was anything I could offer her?
He was as hideous as they got, and he had the misfortune of knowing age would not improve him. He hunched over and balled his fingers into fists against the sink, knuckles going white as the skin stretched taught against the bone. The movement pulled his ill-fitting nightshirt up along his back, setting off a dull stinging.
Suppressing a sigh Snape lifted up his shirt and turned his back against the mirror, already knowing what he would find. It appeared he was sent to school with quite the thrashing.
Angry red welts stretched across his back, dull pain singing in vivid memory of the abuse. Blood seeped slowly from the scabs that formed from where the blows caught against the bony jags of his spine, turning into deep gouges down his back. He must have been belted, quite badly at that. He could not fathom how he could have allowed his father to do that to him. Had he not yet figured out how the trace worked? Did he not even try to defend himself?
Matching stains were on his nightshirt from where he pulled the shirt and unstuck it from his cracked wounds. It couldn't have been less than a week since he got his beating yet he had not healed sufficiently enough for the scabs to stop oozing.
He actually could not remember how this beating came about. It had been a long time ago, and his mind had been preoccupied with matters of greater importance since. He did however remember stealing tonics from the infirmary, in his youth he hadn't had the patience to recover on his own. His body had been sickly during this period of time, and every recovery he tried to make without aid from magic, be it injury or illness, took an irritatingly long time. And this was the type of injury he could not find himself ever going to Poppy for.
No. Madam Pomfrey. He did not have the right to be on a first name basis with the adults at this time. Perhaps not ever.
Snape pulled his shirt back down, hiding the pathetic reminder of how miserable his life had once been.
No. Is now.
This was his life now. His frail, ugly sixteen-year-old self.
With a shudder of self-loathing he stepped out of the bathroom, not even bothering to dry off, allowing his hair to drip and soak through his thin shirt.
When Snape reached his bed he found his school robes sitting folded on his trunk. The House-Elves laundered it every night since he only had the one set. It was already frayed and threadbare from its repeated usage, repair and lengthening spells.
He stripped off quickly, stifling a hiss from his scabs getting torn open again and wrapped himself as quickly as possible into his school robes. He didn't need anyone waking up and seeing his bare torso. He knew for certain at this age he would react with no less self-consciousness, in this respect not much had, or would ever change. He loathed attention, and would never suffer the pity of others.
As he belted his robes, a white sheet of folded parchment caught his eye. It was sitting on the trunk, hidden under the robes. Undoubtedly his sixteen-year-old self had left it in his robe pocket when the Elves came to call, and as a result it was returned neatly along with his robes.
Snape unfolded it, feeling the weight of quality parchment, knowing this was a parchment that could not belong to him. Elegant slanted writing met his eyes, and even without a signature he knew exactly who this was from.
My Dear Severus. He actually read it in Lucius' obnoxious lilt.
While I do not doubt your commitment to the cause, there are certain requirements I need of you. I know firsthand of your unique talents but I am not the only one you need to convince. You will need to send me something to present as a demonstration of your worthiness.
The letter ended abruptly with no closing, reading more like a memo than a letter. Yet he had held onto it in his youth.
Snape remembered this, it was his first step towards initiation. He received the letter during the first day of his sixth year. If this was as how he remembered it, then he had not yet replied. No matter how eager he was that was not how Slytherins respond.
With a flick of his wand his copy of 'Advanced Potion-Making' flew from his bag, as worn and tatty as he remembered it. A familiar piece, the sanctuary of his mind. The solitary source of comfort in this trying time. With a gentle caress he cracked opened the ancient textbook. 'Property of the Half-Blood Prince', read the front page and suddenly this one memory of comfort fell to ash upon his mind.
Because it was this toxic way of thinking that lead him astray, this idea of 'I am at least still half a Prince!'
With a bitter scowl he turned the page, no longer feeling the comfort this book had offered. He turned to where he knew the spell would have been scribbled in the corner.
That corner of the book sat blessedly bare.
That was the spell he had presented, the spell that Lucius had determined meant he was worth the effort of grooming into a presentable state. He poured every waking moment into it, refining it, perfecting it in his haze of anger and hatred.
Because that was all his life was at this time. Boxed in from all sides, unable to find refuge at home or at school. Forced to face the demons of his life alone.
Because he pushed away the only person who ever gave a damn.
It was little wonder he held onto this letter like a lifeline. A hope for a brighter future. A place where he mattered.
A decision he would regret bitterly.
The letter caught aflame, shrivelling into blackened shreds as it drifted to the floor. A faint smell of smoke settled in the dorm room as Snape blasted it away with a silent gust of wind, crumbling it into fine ash.
He has since faced far worse in solitude. He was no longer that pathetic boy.
Too early for breakfast to begin, Snape slunk into the Great Hall. His stomach was already a gnawing great pit. It was a strange feeling to have an appetite again.
He hesitated at the doorway, eyes drawn towards the High Table, towards the seat that had been his for the past seventeen years of his life. A seat he'd had for longer than the years he would have already seen in this body's lifetime. That was a strange thought.
With deliberate effort Snape dragged himself to the Slytherin table and sat on the corner-most seat closest to the high table. He needed to catch Dumbledore's eye and unless he was relying on a lucky random encounter in the hallway, the Great Hall was the most efficient place to establish first contact.
After several minutes of sitting in stewing silence the first students began arriving. Ravenclaws were the first to find their seats, the over eager over achievers they are. Already noses in their textbooks and debating loudly and heartily across the empty table on whatever feckless thoughts they had on the already established magical theories. A small cluster of Hufflepuffs entered then, first years by the size of them, looking nervous and lost. Floating alongside them was the Fat Friar, no doubt finding those eager little first years lost in the hallways and shepherding his little badgers to where they needed to be.
Food began to materialise then, little spots around where the few scattered students sat. A large dish of bacon appeared before Snape whose stomach growled fiercely in response but he instinctively avoided it and reached for the toast.
In his older age he had found a lessening ability to tolerate heavy fare in morning meals, though it had not been an issue in his youth. Instead it would be spots and oil-based breakouts he had to contend with at this age, when he actually had adequate intake of nutrients to speak of. With hindsight and the self-control that came with age he could at least save himself from that discomfort. Dry toast and porridge was more than adequate for a morning meal. Perhaps a little egg as well, he was in desperate need of protein.
Arranging his breakfast neatly on his plate Snape took a sip of his porridge, edging off his hunger slowly before proceeding to neatly fold the scrambled eggs and crop it into manageable pieces. The House elves always managed to make them equally fluffy and firm.
But then the Gryffindors began arriving and breakfast was quickly forgotten. Snape hunched over his plate, frozen. His eyes flickered desperately amongst the red emblems. Searching desperately for a glimpse.
Just a glimpse…
"You feeling alright there Snape?" A voice asked from behind just before a body settled onto the bench beside him. Turning with a scowl Snape met the weasel face of Alexander Avery, his year-mate and fellow future death eater.
"Never better." The young Potion Master answered in his smooth low-pitched voice and returned to meticulously folding his eggs onto his fork.
From across the table Owen Mulciber dropped heavily onto the bench and pitched in. "You're usually not stuffing your face so daintily. If you ain't sick why yah eating like a princess?"
Apparently the usage of cutlery was suspect, what kind of a course cretin had he been that table manners were call to query?
"Focus on your breakfast and less on mine." He could not help but be snappy, not the right tone to take with Mulciber. The larger boy bristled and pressed forward menacingly and Snape had the foresight to avert his eyes in a show of submission.
During his school years Mulciber had been the top dog. He was bigger, stronger and from a good pureblood family. It didn't matter he was as dumb as a pile of bricks, at least not to children, and not in the pit of snakes where the weak would find no support save from submitting to the strong.
And Severus Snape had been weak.
Appeased, Mulciber leant back, and completely skipped over the cutlery as he reached over and grabbed a handful of bacon. Without even so much as touching the plate Mulciber shoved it between two slices of toast and straight into his face.
Snape watched the display with muted disgust but he did not wear his thoughts on his face for any fool to see. He quickly turned away before his stomach could be turned and was pleased to see Avery at least was using some semblance of manners to handle his food.
The squirrelly boy met his eyes and said, "Before I forget. I left your Transfigurations homework on your bedside table. I didn't copy it word for word this time."
Snape nodded, scowling on the inside. Apparently he had participated in this deplorable behaviour of homework sharing in his youth. It was not a memory he kept into adulthood and the idea of it made his inner-Professor cringe.
Turning away he focused his attention to the High Table, watching the Professors arrive and take their place. Minerva, Professor McGonagall now, with fewer greys in her hair but no less stern of a look, took her place in the centre of the table beside the empty throne that was Dumbledore's seat.
She had been the one Professor that Snape had respected the most. And yet her parting words had been to accuse him of cowardice.
A testament to the legacy he had left.
The Head of Slytherin, Horace Slughorn waddled in and settled his sizable frame into the seat that overlooked the Slytherin table. A seat that had been Snape's before he took the Headmaster's throne.
And almost as if summoned by his dark thoughts, Albus Dumbledore drifted through the doors, garbed in sparkling lavender. The Once-Usurpers' eyes followed him as he passed Sprout and Kettleburn exchanging greetings and pleasantries, before settling into the throne that was always meant for him.
He never once looked Snape's way.
"God look at those offensive robes." A stifled mutter came from across the table. "The days of the Dark Lord is just a matter of time."
Snape looked sharply at Mulciber who without swallowing the bite already stuffed another bacon sandwich in.
A light unassuming voice spoke. "I'd watch your overeager tongue if I were you." The large boy turned sharply, his intimidating glare not taking the same effect with his bulging cheeks. Evan Rosier, took his seat lightly across from Snape, his heavy-lidded eyes set his face in a permanent expression of boredom. With money and looks and his father in the Dark Lord's good graces he was the only one of them who did not have to fear Mulciber. "Remember, the portraits have ears."
"Portre's can stuffit" Mulciber returned, spraying grease and crumbs.
Snape lowered his gaze to his half-eaten breakfast, unwilling to meet the headmaster's eyes under the scrutiny of the far cleverer Rosier. He would need to approach Dumbledore a different way.
"Alright there Snape?" Rosier inquired, more out of politeness than actual curiosity. That was one thing Snape always liked about him, he was cordial to everyone.
Even those he was about to murder.
"I'll live." Snape offered, eyes meeting those of the soon-to-be Death Eater's, then widened.
From across the hall, a flash of dark red caught his eye. He could not help the hitch of breath, nor the sudden pattering of his heart.
Her hair fell about her shoulders like dark red silk. Her eyes, such a lively bright green that he could see them sparkling even from across the Great Hall. She smiled and it seemed the morning light shone brighter in response.
"Oh no he's at it again." The snarky voice of Avery yanked him back to reality. Snape glowered at those he once called friends, who rolled eyes and muttered unkindness behind his back. He hunched back over his now cold plate, appetite surprisingly still present, and grudgingly spooned his breakfast into his protesting stomach.
With casual observance Snape looked back, likely fooling nobody. His heart sank to find her seated squarely beside the enemy. The bile of hatred rose as he spotted the smiling arrogant face of James Bloody Potter, chattering to her, laughing away like she already belonged to him.
She couldn't have. Not yet surely. They started dating in their seventh year, Snape could remember it clearly. It was hard to miss the squawking titters of gossipy Gryffindors, and it was harder yet to forget the heartbreak he felt.
He was to watch it all happen again.
Standing suddenly, able to stomach his food no longer, Snape excused himself. He was met with a few snide looks but he didn't care.
Exiting the Great Hall, he took off sprinting down the hall, stopping only when his sickly body gave out and he leant gasping against a pillar.
This was his reality. Knowing what was going to happen, and being unable to do anything to stop it.
She would never speak to him again.
He balled a fist against the cool marble pillar, biting back the gasps of breath lest they become wracking sobs.
But she's alive.
The thought darted across his mind. His breathing calmed.
She has a chance to be happy.
He straightened, arms falling to his sides as he let out an unsteady breath.
She has a chance to live.
Snape looked up out through the hallway window and cast his gaze out onto the dawn-touched grounds.
He would bear it all to reduce all his regrets to just the one.
A/N: Hello dear readers. Here is a 'Snape relives his past' type of story with eventual SxL. There are many just like it but this one's mine.
Edit: My thank you to MrsNanna for helping me with a post-production beta read and edit.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter universe and do not seek to profit in any way from this fanfiction.