Chapter 2: Duty of Regret
Defence Against the Dark Arts was the only class Snape had ever actually wanted to teach, and a class that he had taught most competently.
Now he had to endure it as a student. Again.
Snape couldn't remember which seat he would usually claim as his own but he got the distinct impression it was not at the front. He had already gone through this very conundrum in Ancient Runes first thing this morning and chose the back most window seat. A Hufflepuff had thrown him a dirty look and Snape sent him scampering with a well-placed glower.
In this class at least the would-be-once-student had some people he could use as a guide. Mulciber slouched into that seat in the corner most of the back row and Avery took the one directly to his front. Rosier took the back row seat by Mulciber and Snape assumed the seat by Avery was his.
With his schoolbag set atop the desk Snape placed his wand beside it. He didn't have a holster for his wand at this age so if he wanted his wand handy he simply had to hold it. He had pockets that were deep enough but they were so worn it made him nervous to carry this precious cargo, lest it dropped through without his notice.
Then she entered.
He thought he had been prepared for it.
Snape averted his eyes as Lily took her seat at the front, but not once had she looked his way.
He had to keep reminding himself to ease the pain. He had no right to feel upset. After all was she not right in the end?
He was to be the death of her.
A middle aged witch materialised from the side door, it was probably safe to assume she was the Professor for the class this year. Snape let out a slow pent up breath. Class was to start, and no matter how easy the subject would be for him he at least got something to focus on.
"Ok class." The bubbly voice of the Professor called out, settling the class. Snape could barely remember her, she was a blur amongst the many faces that whisked in and out of this department. "My name is Annabel Leafley, but you may call me Professor Leafley." Oh god a friendly one. "As you remember from the beginning of year feast-" barely, "-your old Defence teacher Professor Vakes came down with a bout of Dragon Pox in the Summer." Not even the barest hint of an impression.
Before she could continue the door down in front was yanked open and a quartet of students poured through. Marauders. A rush of hatred boiled through Snape, he was not even surprised to see they were tardy.
"Oh more students. Well find your seat please." Professor Leafley didn't seem the least bit phased by the disrespect shown to her. Had they been late to Snape's class he would have gladly docked their points into the negative and given them a month's worth of detentions. Had he the power now…
He averted his eyes, fuming at how pathetic he was. He actually thought of Professorial power as real power.
"Now I don't think we need the little preamble into the topic. I'm sure by sixth year you'll all be well aware how important Defence is." No introduction? Sacrilege! "We'll just dive right in to our first lesson. Wordless defensive spells, starting with the Shield Charm." With a satisfied frown Snape remembered that was indeed the first spell he had taught on the first day to sixth year too. Perhaps Professor Leafley actually had some idea of what she was doing.
"Ok students. All stand." Snape sluggishly complied, the Marauders hadn't even found their seats. With a silent wave of the wand the desks parted, leaving the middle clear for practice. "I want you all to find a partner and practice the spell, with one party casting the Knockback Jinx, gently, and the other party try to parry it with a wordless Protego."
Trivial. Snape thought as he parried the knockback Avery sent his way with a simple flick of his wrist. But what did he expect really? He was taking a sixth year Defence lesson, he was not going to be challenged. Avery fired off another much stronger knockback jinx with a great cry of "Flipendo!" and without even acknowledging the effort Snape brushed it aside again.
That caught the attention of those around him, when a bellowed spell didn't cause him to careen across the room and into the tables stacked to the side. Snape glanced around the classroom, meeting the eyes of his staring peers, forcing each of them to drop their gaze.
Until he met those green ones, and wished desperately they didn't look away.
"Oi Snivellus. The lady doesn't want your greasy nose sticking in her general direction."
James Bloody Potter. If looks could kill it would have done him a favour. The glower he sent the boy could have inverted his arrogant smirk and punched his stupid perfect teeth through his skull.
"That is some impressive display." That bubbly voice sounded right at his shoulder. Had he been anyone else Snape might have jumped, but as a seasoned spy he simply scowled in surprise. The Professor had appeared at his side, seemingly materialising from the walls. "I don't think I've ever seen a student your age master wordless shielding as effortlessly as you have. Ten points to Slytherin." A small whoop came from the small cluster of greens in the corner, the Slytherins that proclaimed to be his friends in this period of his life, looking so pleased with themselves as if they had somehow contributed to this gain. And as if this somehow this had impacted their lives at all.
Professor Leafley clapped her hands. "Now switch around, everyone gets a turn in practicing the shield charm."
"Flipendo." Snape muttered unenthusiastically, knocking Avery stumbling and sprawling flat across the floor.
"Gently!" The squirrelly boy hissed, dusting himself off as if attempting to shed his embarrassment.
"That was gentle." Snape muttered, nearly rolling his eyes.
Before he could try again however, a Knockback Jinx blasted into him from behind, knocking him to his knees and setting his tender back aflame with burning stinging.
Scowling Snape struggled to his feet, his dark eyes drew to the forms of Black and Pettigrew, doubled over each other laughing. That wretched halfbreed Lupin couldn't hide his smile either, standing just behind them, pretending he had no place in the matter. And in the centre of them all stood Potter, wand pointed, arrogant smirk plastered across his face, so pleased he had caught his Slytherin victim by surprise.
It was harmless compared to what the Marauders were capable of, what Snape knew they were capable of. Even in his previous life their actions against him had petered off in severity since his fall out with Lily. No doubt Potter had achieved what he had aimed to, eliminating Snape from Lily's circle. That was all Snape ever was, an obstacle for that arrogant boy, something to grind into the dust for daring to stand between him and his object of fancy. And true to spoilt child form he coveted the only girl who didn't throw herself at him, wearing her down until she fit that mould he desired.
Enraged, Snape swept his wand sharply across, sending a powerful wordlessly cast knockback shockwave right into that arrogant prick. Potter waved his wand in a feckless attempt to wordlessly block, but to no avail. Snape's spell blasted through his flimsy shielding spell sending him flying into his friends. Black was quick to react, sidestepping out of the way as Potter flew past, catching the rat and the werewolf and sending all three tumbling into the desks.
Green eyes met black ones again as Lily's outraged expression killed any sense of enjoyment Snape might have gotten from this. Why was he made to feel like the villain? He was giving tit for tat.
Black snarled, wand out. Snape returned his glare with a bored, dismissive expression. Nothing would give him more pleasure than to thrash the Marauders publically. He itched at the thought, the desire to take his tormenters apart, to put the force of his vast power and experience to bear. At this age they would not even be a challenge. He would destroy them.
But those green eyes met his, giving him pause. He wouldn't be the first to attack. He won't be the bad guy.
But that won't impress her.
Why am I still trying to impress her?
Black snarled a hex and Snape swept it away like it was a bothersome fly. He would be well within his right to retaliate.
But those green eyes won't let him.
They were watching him.
"I thought you were meant to be smart Snivellus." Potter untangled himself from the assorted arms and legs of Pettigrew, Lupin and the tables. "But it seems you still haven't learnt your lesson." Snape's hateful eyes met those contempt filled hazel ones. With a cruel sneer Potter spat. "And I had thought I had given the lesson so well by the lakeside."
It all rushed back to him, his humiliation. A memory that was never too far away. A memory that was still fresh in the minds of all those who stood here. Cruel sniggers arose around the classroom and Snape felt his rage aflame.
"Settle down class." Professor Leafley tried uselessly to diffuse the situation.
He had not felt the desire to break all promises to the light as badly as he did now. No amount of suffering he endured could equate to the hatred he felt for this man before him. The darkness whispered to him.
Strike him down.
It would be no more than he deserves.
He gripped his wand so tightly he felt his knuckles pop.
I killed you once. He thought, savouring the memory of James' death. Of his own sweet role in it. Feeling with horror as the memory turned bile in his mouth.
Because he had killed Lily with that very same stroke.
He felt the guilt choking him. It was not the memory he wished to invoke.
Green eyes met his in that moment, that terrible moment, almost as if she was judging him for that terrible deed. Judging him for killing her.
Guilt threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn't take it.
Snape dashed to the door and escaped down the hallway, chased by cruel ringing laughter. James Potter's loudest of all.
Lolling his head back Snape knocked it gently against cool stone wall. He fled down to the dungeon, with his tail between his legs, taking refuge in one of the empty classrooms. A room that was never in use, having been set up for theory in the poorly lit dungeons.
The once spymaster could not have imagined handling that encounter as poorly as he did. He who had spent years amongst his enemies, acting, lying, never caught, never suspected. Yet within the span of a day, mere children were able to crumble his composure and send him fleeing for sanctuary.
Snape grimaced, suddenly remembering his flight from the Astronomy tower after committing his second most heinous sin. How too then his composure had slipped dangerously as words flung from the mouth of an ignorant child struck him too close to the core.
"Story of my life." He muttered into the dark.
The rumble of foot traffic from the hallway alerted him of the time. Potion class must be over and that must have been the sound of students hurrying up to the surface, eager to be away from the dank depth of the dungeons during their break between classes.
Snape lulled his head again, thankful that break time would give him more time to recuperate. He wasn't going to truant a class just because of a small setback, no matter how meaningless school was to him now. He was at least thankful his next class was Arithmancy. That was not a class he expected many of the boneheaded Marauders in. Perhaps Lupin studied the exacting art of numerology but without the other three he was never an issue.
He scowled disparagingly into the dark at his pathetic relief at the prospect of avoiding those prats. He was no coward yet here he was acting like one.
This was only the first day…
He sighed deeply and heartfelt into the darkness, thankful he was alone.
But that was the problem of life in a sentient castle. One was rarely ever alone.
"Get up!" Snape scrambled to his feet at the sound of that deep booming voice. "No Slytherin will hide in some rat ditch moping."
Snape glared into the darkness and made out the almost invisible outline of a ghost floating above the dust-coated desks, the barely visible blood covered visage of the Bloody Baron. For a ghost whose favourite pastime involved rattling chains in various location he certainly snuck up quietly.
"Leave me be." Snape muttered. He already knew the Baron would pay his request no heed. Never had there been a House ghost less sympathetic to members of his own House.
He and the Baron had a casual acquaintance in his past life, never exchanging more words than enough to accomplish a task. Whereas other ghosts would helpfully guide their respective students and assist them in all the various matters they're capable of, the Baron would only berate for lack of skill or judgement.
Most befitting of the image of Slytherin.
"Cowards are given no quarter!" The blood stained ghost bellowed.
"I am no coward!" Snape roared back, suddenly incensed.
The barely visible spirit swooped into his face, so close they were almost nose-to-spectral-nose. "I am not convinced." He matched with an echoed hiss.
"What do you know of courage oh Slytherin Ghost? You're dead." The living man hissed. "Your call to courage is over."
"Is it?" The Baron's eyes flashed warningly as a dark mirthless smile graced his barely visible face. "Do you have regrets? So deep they root into your very soul?"
Snape grew rigid.
"Do your regrets haunt your very day and every night?"
The Baron's eyes flashed as he retreated and disappeared into the darkness. "When you can face those regrets every single day of your existence, then you may speak to me about courage."
Snape was breathing hard as he stared after the faded form. "Oh is that all?" He spat scathingly into the darkness and found no answering reply.
Potions, the last class of the day.
The lesson was never going to be challenging enough to keep his mind on task. Snape found himself casting glances to the beautiful creature that sat at the front desk.
An hour long class and she never even once looked his way.
Disheartened the Potion Master refocused his attention to the brew before him, bubbling away, refusing to challenge his abilities. A Potion of Addled Thought, an advanced version of the Confusion Concoction. Useless if he were to take it at this stage of the process despite the temptation.
Distract me damn you.
The Baron had called him a coward for refusing to face this regret. What did he know? Snape had faced this every day of his previous life.
Though never this directly.
She sat beside someone he could not name, a blond Gryffindor girl who both stood and sat taller than her red-headed counterpart. He watched Lily put her potion on the burner, before drawing her silver knife to a Tanoak nut. With a swift strike of the blade handle she cracked the nut down the middle, and with a swift flick of the point, separated the flesh from the hard shell. In three quick strokes she slivered the specimen into four equal slivers. It was not a required step in the recipe from the textbook, yet she knew that was how the nut should be prepared in order to speed up the reaction process and lower the chance of clots forming within the brew.
From as long as Snape could remember Lily had been learning his tricks in potions craft. They sat together at the same bench since first year and she watched him closely, closer than any student he's ever had since. But she hadn't simply copied his technique.
She was clever. She had learned.
By fourth year she had become a master of the craft in her own right, understanding instinctively what properties each ingredient would exhibit and how to coax the maximum potential for each of their desired effects.
The first and only person he'd ever successfully taught to brew.
Taught? She was never my student.
The only success in the craft that he was ever able to pass on and he could not even claim the credit as his own.
Snape presses his blade into his own Tanoak nut and shelled it, taking far more meticulous care in the action than he ever had, or ever needed to. Beside him Avery, already three steps behind, shredded the nightshade into a spindled mess. The Potion Master internally sighed but was in no mood to correct him.
It was with profound relief class end rolled around. Snape handed over his perfectly crafted brew for marking, Avery did the same albeit far less confidently. He watched as Slughorn shut his potion carrier case, waving goodbye cheerfully to his select handful of students.
The Slug club. A more blatant display of favouritism than even Professor Snape had ever deigned to show.
Snape focused intently on packing his deteriorating bag as Lily slipped out with a cheerful wave at the delighted Potions Professor. Her brew sitting snugly in the rotund professor's palm as if he intended to mark it before all the others.
Lily was always the Professor's favourite. But who could blame him?
"You go on ahead." Snape muttered as his tablemate waited for him at the front. "I need to discuss something with the Professor."
"Right." Avery replied, rolling his eyes. Snape having something potion related to discuss. That notion didn't surprise anyone. Snape had counted on it.
The door closed with a click as the last of the students exited and the lone Slytherin finally approached the Gargantuan Professor. He heaved his bag onto the front-most desk, not at all keen to shoulder it through a conversation. The straps were so frayed they cut into his shoulder like cords, but he could not bear the weight straight on his back so he'd been forced to shift it from one shoulder or the other.
"Severus m'boy. Come to dazzle me with a new bee in your bonnet?" Slughorn greeted him cheerfully. Evidently he too suspected his student only wished to speak to him about some self-conceived theory in the craft. Even without remembering much of his schooling habits Snape knew instinctively that it was exactly the kind of thing he would have done at this age.
Not this time however.
"No Professor. I come to make a request."
The smile slipped off the elder man's face. Always eager to receive favours, rarely happy to grant them. None the less he motioned for his student to continue.
"I need to speak to the Headmaster." Snape requested, laying his cards on the table. Like any Slytherin Slughorn would not grant the request easily, at least not without putting it through some questions.
"But whatever for? If you have an issue you should come to me first and foremost as the Head of Slytherin."
And yet never quite act like it. Snape thought disparagingly. It wasn't favouritism he was after from the man, but just any sort of acknowledgement that the Slytherins were his to assist. As the Head of House, Professor Snape had always made sure his young snakes had him to turn to, the only point of surety in the otherwise precarious snake pit.
Slytherin had always been a House to its own. They had no one to turn to outside their own House, and within, each snake bore fangs. If their House Head would not support them then they are cast adrift and alone. It was little wonder so many submitted to the darkness under the watch of Horace Slughorn.
"I have an issue that can only be resolved by the Headmaster." Snape insisted.
The Professor would not budge. "Why dear boy if you have an issue then it is my job as the Head of House to deal with it, not Dumbledore's. The Headmaster is a very busy man."
When had Slughorn ever taken his position as the Head of Slytherin seriously? Was the man not always chomping at the bit to push his responsibilities off onto others?
Snape had misjudged the man's character, the man he remembered from a more recent life was far more reluctant to take on these tasks. This was not going to be the path forward. There were too many risks in pursuing the path of concocted lies, and too few ways one could conceivably find success.
A Slytherin knows when it's time to retreat and pursue other options.
Snape slowly shook his head. "Thank you for taking the time to listen to my request." He muttered, lifting his bag over his shoulder with a grunt. "But I ask that you not mention this to any of my Housemates."
The bushy brows on the old Professor knitted together. "Is there something the matter with your fellow Slytherins?"
Snape suppressed a derisive sneer. At this point there's been something the matter for a while.
"That is all Professor." Without another glance back Snape headed for the door. If the man could not tell of the turmoil within his own House then there was no helping him. This was the period of time when Slytherin was left bereft of support, where darkness was left to fester and grow unchecked.
His insides burned with the indignation. To have been forced to face this alone at this age, with no corner of support, and boxed in from all sides.
How could I have turned out any other way?
That was the unfortunate thought that passed through his mind when he opened the door and found two green eyes staring up at him, startled.
She was leant slightly forward, as if she had been pressing her ear to the door, her eyes round with surprise. One foot was turned, pointed down the hall as if she had wanted to bolt, but wasn't given enough time to react.
The self-righteous rage fled, replaced by the soul crushing guilt. The guilt for a crime he could blame on no other.
In the end he was the one that made that choice.
He was the one that went too far.
Lily looked as if she was going to deliver an excuse but then froze before a single word made it past her lips.
As if she just remembered they were no longer on talking terms.
Her wide eyes narrowed and she lowered her head, pushing past her once-friend roughly.
What should I have done Lily?
Snape lowered his eyes and slunk out, letting the door swing shut behind him.
Avery, Mulciber, Rosier…
He trudged down the dungeon corridor.
Your House is your family.
His footsteps rang hollow in the dark echoing hall.
What you asked of me would have left me without anyone.
He stopped and looked back over his shoulder into the gloomy darkness.
Even you would have eventually left me.
His eyes darkened as he shifted the cutting straps across from one shoulder to the other, feeling the heavy bag knock against the sores upon his back.
You could never have kept me and Potter both.
And I could never have kept you.
Dinner had only one purpose for Snape.
His last chance of the day to gain Dumbledore's attention.
Scowling softly into his plate of mash and gravy Snape waited for the cheerful old man to complete his greetings and find his chair.
Potatoes were filling and would do for tonight. Ordinarily he would have gotten perhaps a few slices of roast but he could not afford the hands to cut it. He needed his wand in his right hand, under the table and out of sight.
"Still feeling poorly?" Rosier politely inquired as he cut up his own slices of medium rare beef cuts.
Snape grunted and looked away. Let Rosier believe it had something to do with what happened with the Marauders today. It would not be the first time he was rendered moody and unsociable by the constant harassment. His eyes appeared to drift casually down the teacher's table, finding Dumbledore in his throne and already chatting away to McGonagall beside him.
Snape flicked his wand and suddenly a metal pitcher half way down the Slytherin table went flying, spraying some fourth years with pumpkin juice.
"PEEVES!" Bellowed the Baron who was floating at the other end of the table. He wouldn't have witnessed the culprit yet the Poltergeist was simply the natural conclusion when mayhem occurred.
With everyone's attention fixed to further down the table Snape cast his eyes to the Headmaster's. The only pair of Slytherin eyes that were not turned in the direction of the commotion.
Meet my eyes. Snape willed.
Almost as if responding to his request those piercing blue eyes locked onto his. Snape silently pushed his mind forward, casting a wordless Legilimency through eye contact.
A shadow fell over the headmaster's expression as Snape's mind met with the solid wall of the headmaster's Occlumency. He had the man's attention.
Leaning back slightly Snape allowed his mind wall melt away, summoning a thought to the forefront of his mind that would truly get the old man's interest.
"…Severus. You have been a good and faithful servant…" Those words poured from the mouth of a grinning snake mask with glinting red eyes.
A moment that Snape could not forget.
A moment that lead to his death.
The shadow lifted from Dumbledore's face as the old headmaster gave him an almost indiscernible tilt of the head and leaned backwards into his throne.
Dinner had been cleared from the table along with the errant jug, and mess. Dessert settled in its place along the House tables, as well as the High Table.
Dumbledore appeared casual as he reached for a bowl and brought out a disgustingly sugar coated sweet. The dessert quivered between his fingers as if alive and in anticipation of being eaten, and with unnecessary meticulousness, the headmaster turned the shivering treat between his fingers and popped it into his mouth with a smile. As if that was the highlight of the evening he had been waiting for, Dumbledore then stood, exchanging goodnights with the other teachers and glided back down the table and out the door.
Snape turned to his own bowl of quivering sugar candies, scowling. He could not for the life of him remember what this sweet was called. He didn't even like sweets and hadn't made it a habit to learn their names. And with these ones, these vibrating cavities to be, these sweets probably didn't even exist in his time anymore. Why did Dumbledore have to use these as inspiration for his password this cycle?
Hesitantly he bit down on the disgusting sugar coated confectionary and cringed as the overwhelming sweetness coated the inside of his mouth. The gummy flecks that broke apart as he chewed continued to wriggle, creating a disconcerting tingling sensation on his tongue. Snape pushed through his disgust and concentrated on the flavour, hoping it would trigger some type of memory from his school days.
With a sigh Snape stood and excused himself from the table. There was nothing for it, he'd have to guess.
Dinner was always a rowdy affair at the Gryffindor table, and because of that it wasn't that much of a surprise when pitchers go flying. When the commotion happened at the Slytherin table everyone had been briefly startled, but the Gryffindors quickly settled back into their own world. No longer paying heed to the bellowing Baron and the curious case of the flying jug.
Lily's attention however did not shift from that one dark figure amongst the many indignant snakes. Snape had not reacted to the pitcher, instead stared up at the Headmaster in almost desperation. The Gryffindor girl felt a squirm of relief when Dumbledore appeared to notice him, a relief she refused to acknowledge.
The Gryffindor girl recognised the lolly the headmaster meticulously displayed as the password to access his office this week. All the prefects were kept alerted by the Head Boy and Girl of the change, and with the explicit instructions to never disturb the Headmaster for anything other than critical issues.
Lily watched with guilty interest as the Slytherin boy pick up the same piece of candy and place it hesitantly in his mouth, his entire face convulsing with revulsion. Lily looked away, Snape should be able to take care of his problem now. She didn't need to get involved.
"Trifle?" Mary offered as she spooned the treat from the giant Sundae dish at their end of the table. Mary Macdonald was a little on the chubby side but her cherub face worked well with her luscious brown curls.
Lily shook her head. "Not tonight. Ate a little too much at dinner."
"Not on a diet are you?" Came Marlene from across the table, helping herself to some hot brownie with whipped cream.
"Not all of us can keep a slim figure effortlessly like you." Lily retorted with a grin. It wasn't strictly true. Marlene McKinnon was a Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Today was evidently a practice day as her normally loose blond hair was struck up into a messy ponytail and her face still ruddy and windblown from a hard day's flying.
Mary rolled her eyes. "Any skinnier and you'll disappear. Put some meat on your bones Lily."
"I prefer to stay at equilibrium."
From down the table a cheeky grin caught her attention as her eyes were drawn to the bespectacled ones of James Potter. His usually unruly hair stuck out worse than usual, kicked up by the winds from up high on his expensive racing broom. Lily was always torn between wanting him to brush it and liking how roguish it made him look.
Today however it was the former.
Lily narrowed her eyes and looked away. She was mad at him today after what he pulled in Defence class. She and Snape may not be friends anymore but that did not mean she was happy allow this crazy grudge to carry on. She hadn't seen Potter cast the jinx but she was left without a doubt who had done it when the Slytherin stumbled and the Marauders fell over each other howling with laughter like a pack of idiotic banshees.
"Ooooh the Princess is mad at you again." Came the irritating smooth voice of Sirius Black, loud enough that it could be heard from down the table. She glanced over and saw the worried expression on James' face as he gave her a meek hopeful smile.
Lily glared back without a word, wishing to convey all her displeasure with a withering look before turning away and paying him no more heed.
"I think I'm done here." Lily announced with a nod to Mary and Marlene, "see you both back in the Tower." She stood and headed for the Entrance Hall without another glance to James and his childish Marauders.
Crossing into the pleasant silence of the Entrance Hall, Lily took a moment to roll her shoulders and enjoy the cooling breeze of the Summer Evening. She could see the sun's rays shine through the west-facing windows, playing prettily over the ancient stonework of the historical castle.
In moments like this she could almost believe everything would be alright.
Breathing deeply Lily set off up the Grand Staircase, shedding as much of the unpleasant thoughts as she could. She had been stewing since Defence this morning, after that maddening in-class altercation between Snape and Potter. There hadn't been any doubt that James had started it, her once-friend had seemed muted and despondent today as opposed to his usual rage-filled disposition of the days preceding.
His hate filled eyes had followed her since school's start, blaming her for her decision. As if it had been an easy decision for her. As if she wanted to end their friendship.
Snape was skinnier than she's ever seen him, even coming out of a school holiday. His family didn't have much, she knew. He couldn't eat well at home, she knew.
She knew but told herself it was no longer her business. He never wanted her to meddle in his home life anyhow.
And now they had no place in each other's lives at all.
He was toxic to me.
I had to end it.
It was the right decision but it didn't sit comfortably to Lily, especially knowing what she knew about his unfortunate background. But what could she do? When he was so full of hate and rage. When he would lash out every time she tried to help, rebuking her 'pity'.
His angry looks of betrayal pierced through her each time she spoke to Potter. At least James never practiced Dark Arts. At least he didn't fly off the handle unpredictably. At least he didn't say horrible things about Muggle-Borns.
No. He only said horrible things about Slytherins. About Severus.
Much of it had been deserved.
When Lily had first started her friendship with Remus in their second year, she had hoped to persuade the much more pleasant boy to influence his friends into leaving her Slytherin friend alone. It looked as if it was working at first, and Lily got a little more acquainted with the rest of the marauders, they didn't seem so bad. However then Snape acted as if Lily had needed his permission to befriend anyone else.
And then suddenly everything became much, much worse.
He was controlling, violent and angry, and he grew darker by the day. Spiralling deeper and deeper into that awful Slytherin philosophy, until she could no longer see her friend when she looked at him.
The boy who showed her magic, who showed her wonder.
Who told her it didn't matter if she was Muggle-Born.
To quote a muggle proverb, last summer had been the straw that broke the donkey's back.
But then his venom-spitting, violent-fury cooled, suddenly and without warning. The change was so abrupt she even saw his Slytherin friends cast appraising glances at him.
It unsettled her.
This afternoon after Potions, Lily had returned to confirm the time for the Slug Club meeting the coming Saturday. However when she approached the door, she heard Snape's voice.
"…I ask that you not mention this to any of my Housemates."
"Is there something the matter with your fellow Slytherins?"
The words stoked dread within Lily. Had he gotten himself into a bad situation involving the other Slytherins? She had been torn between staying to listen and fleeing down the hall to avoid him.
But the decision was taken from her when door to the Potion's classroom suddenly opened and they met face to face.
She thought she had seen anger in those eyes, but it quickly fled, leaving nothing but an empty melancholy within those dark pits. A state she could not fathom from her fiery recluse once-friend.
Pulling out of these ponderous thoughts, Lily stopped at the second floor landing and glanced down the hallway. The setting sun did not shine through these windows at this time of the day, casting deep shadows. Surface classroom hallways were never lit with torches, forcing whoever wished to traverse these areas after sunset to do so by wand-light.
The Gargoyle Corridor was on this floor, the only entrance way to the Headmaster's Office that Lily knew of.
I'm not supposed to care anymore.
That was the thought that lanced through the Gryffindor girl's mind as she found her feet taking her down the darkened corridor. She instinctively softened her steps to stop the natural echo of the hallway from alerting anyone that might be there. To stop Snape from realising she had come to see if he's managed to find his way to the Headmaster.
An angry expletive echoed down the hall, halting her, heart racing.
Slowly Lily made her way down the hall and peeked around the corner. A dark shadow paced back and forth before the Gargoyle, despite the setting sun no wand-light was lit.
But even without it there was no mistaking that voice.
"Move you ludicrous Gargoyle. I don't have time to play guess the sugar-based trollop." He growled rather than screamed, he didn't flail or stomp his feet. He was almost calm if not for the pacing.
A frightening thought occurred to Lily, that this might be someone under Polyjuice. It would certainly explain how drastically different he was behaving lately. He was like a complete stranger.
But the way he had looked at her…
Those were not the eyes of a stranger.
Lily took a deep breath and whispered, "Lumos." She stepped around the corner, lit wand held aloft. Shadows leapt up around the man who wore the face of her once-friend. He whipped around, wand drawn and pointed, growling, "Who's there?"
Lily moved her wand-light to the side, watching closely as the boy's dark eyes widened marginally. The light glinting on his black pupils, wavering as if from some unspoken emotion.
Not the eyes of a stranger…
"Jittering Dandies." Lily called out. The Gargoyle leapt to the side, revealing the spiralling staircase up to the Headmaster's office. Despite having a way forward Snape stood stock still like a deer caught in headlights. Hope in his eyes. She knew then for certain that he was no imposter.
But she was not going to forgive him.
She had run out of chances to give him.
"Whatever you got yourself into, sort it out… Snape." She tacked his surname to the end of that sentence, almost as if she was formalising their distance.
Hurt flashed in his eyes. Lily felt her temper flare alongside her guilt. He didn't get to look hurt. He didn't have the right. Not when he's battered aside every one of her attempts to this point to mend their divide.
She could give no more.
He won't ever change.
Lily turned to leave before she could say something she'll regret.
"You were right." His voice came like a whisper.
The Gryffindor fought the urge to glance back. She won't be swayed by his murmured words. The deceitful mask he wore only for her when he would publically stand with his Slytherin friends and their awful ideals.
A liar or a coward.
No more chances.
Lily rounded the corner, leaving all thoughts of him behind.
Snape was not in an emotionally good place.
He stood silently before the Headmaster's door, composing himself.
He took one shuddering breath and pressed that memory down behind his mind walls, down into where his emotions slept.
The storm inside quietened.
This was only the first day…
Snape knocked, as composed as he'll ever be. "Come in." Beaconed that familiar welcoming voice.
He pushed through the door and was greeted by the patiently smiling headmaster. A mask he wears above his ruthless core. Behind the headmaster perched his phoenix Fawkes, ruffling its shining feathers, leaning forward as if regarding the visitor with curiosity.
Severus remembered the first time he met the bird, when he gave his first report as a newly indoctrinated spy. The phoenix gave a haunting cry that shook him to his core, a sound that drew out all his deepest fears. He thought he had hated the bird then.
But then the bird sang again, that night he sat sobbing in the corner of this very office, his greatest fears having been realised. The song soothed the dregs of his shattered soul and lent him courage to continue when he hadn't believed he could.
His courage had only burned fiercer since.
"Good evening Mr Snape." Dumbledore greeted, his half-senile smile still masking his true thoughts.
Snape nodded his head and politely returned the greeting. "Professor Dumbledore." There was no point in continuing pleasantries. "I have come with information you might find useful." That was it. He was committed.
But that was something that had never been in doubt. He was never going to seek the coward's way.
No matter what. I'll see my duty through.
A/N: Nope, not going to be so easy for Severus Snape. Story of his life I'm sure.
Let's talk shop. I have a very peculiar way of updating in that I set deadlines for myself. I promise all you dear readers that from here on out, I will be updating once a fortnight on Australian Fridays at around midday. It is my hope that I can popularise this type of authorial discipline.
If ever I fail to meet a promised update feel free to bludgeon me with angry messages. The most likely reason will be I simply forgot to update, or life is keeping me from the computer. That usually means I'll update within a day or so of the promised time. If I completely stop updating it is safe to assume that I have died, or less dramatically that I have encountered some Australian internet related issues that cannot be immediately resolved. That is the unfortunate reality of living in a first world country with third world internet.
Edit: Thank you to sattwa100 for picking out the errors dotted throughout my chapter. Some will always slip through without diligent eyes helping me look.
Next Update: Friday 10th March 2017 AEDT.
Chapter 3: To Serve Once More
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter universe and do not seek to profit in any way, shape or form from this fan work.