Warning(s): Minor character death.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 1700 words
Summary: When the Dark Lord is destroyed, Severus will be free.
Note: This was originally written for the Triwizard fic-writing contest at hogwarts_elite. Third place winner.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Severus pauses by a window, gazing out at the bleak, grey city outside. He cannot see his mother; she must have already left. He passes by endless compartments, bumping into the people whose parents stayed behind to wave to them one last time.
He has never seen so much colour before: red, gold, green, silver, yellow, blue, pale orange. The only familiar colour is black, and Severus's gaze clings to it. He bumps into something warm but solid and looks up. A tall, voluptuous girl bars his way, looking down at him with an expression of mild amusement.
"This is the prefects' carriage, sprog. Bugger off."
Severus gazes up into heavy-lidded eyes, at her pale face, and recognises the Black facial structure. He inclines his head reverently and backs away.
"Meeting's started, Bella," comes a deep, rich baritone from behind the girl. Over her shoulder, Severus sees what can only be the face of a Lestrange -- hollow cheeks, Greek nose, slanted eyes.
The carriage door slides closed behind them and Severus is alone.
The Sorting ceremony turns out to involve a frayed and patched old hat. "Sirius Black!" calls the deputy headmistress. No Black has ever been sorted anywhere else but Slytherin.
"GRYFFINDOR!" shouts the Sorting Hat, and the shriek from the Slytherin table is so loud the Gryffindor table's explosion of cheers drowns in it. Bellatrix is on her feet, gaping in shock.
The Hat barely touches Severus's head before it shouts, "SLYTHERIN!"
It is the only time Severus has beaten Sirius Black at anything. When he realises that Sirius didn't even want to be in Slytherin, Severus broods and etches Sirius's name in black ink on the back of his potions textbook.
Severus Snape is the worst kind of half-blood. With a pure-blood mother and a Muggle father, he is everything that Salazar Slytherin had fought against in his day. This does not make Severus very popular with his housemates. He spends his evenings tucked into a dark corner of the common room, studying Latin phrases.
Sometimes he listens to the elders talk of a Dark Lord. Their whispers seep through the air like poison. They do not know Severus is there when Bellatrix whispers the word 'allegiance'.
Severus writes the word in the margin of his textbook and underlines it. Shadows gather at the back of his mind.
Disaster strikes one evening, when Rabastan Lestrange catches Severus and hauls him from his corner. Severus squints against the bright torchlight but does not struggle.
"There's a curse I've always wanted to use on sneaky little rats," says Rabastan with a sneer. "Densau--"
"Bella, tell him to stop!" comes the clear, perfect voice of Narcissa Black from the entrance.
Bellatrix glares at Rabastan, who pushes Severus away. "What are you doing out so late, Cissy?" asks Bellatrix with a frown. "Mother says you shouldn't--"
"Mother isn't here, is she? Come, Severus," says Narcissa. "You shouldn't be out here, this lot are nothing but trouble."
Severus stumbles obediently along to the boys' dormitories and creeps into his bed, thinking about Narcissa's white-blond hair and clear blue eyes. Let the elders swear allegiance to their Dark Lord. Severus will always be loyal to Narcissa Black.
Severus has never hated anyone quite as much as he hates Sirius Black. Black is an arrogant git with no sense of propriety. He does not deserve his family name. His allegiance to his ghastly Gryffindor friends alone makes him the worst kind of blood traitor. Sirius Black is Severus's first enemy, if only because he did not want to be in Slytherin back in first year.
Severus sits in a dank dungeon, listening to the lake's water shifting and lapping against the walls. He traces the words for a new spell he invented in the margin of his Advanced Potion-Making textbook. Sectum. Hurt. Semper. Forever. Severus likes the words because of their sibilant sounds; they are like Parseltongue. He aims his wand at a rat and whispers the incantation, then watches with satisfaction as the vermin bleeds to death. For enemies, writes Severus in the margin.
He loves his spell -- Sectumsempra -- but he hates that it is so similar to 'Severus Snape'. Why couldn't he have been Severus Prince? A half-blood, yet a prince. Severus peers at the inside cover of his textbook and Vanishes the hated Muggle name. He dips his quill into an inkpot and writes, "the Half-Blood Prince."
Severus dreams of black throne rooms and vast halls, serpentine wall sconces with torches glittering green and silver. He is the Half-Blood Prince and his servants are legion. They come bearing gifts, swearing fealty to their liege lord.
When the war begins, Bellatrix Black visits Severus in the musty Knockturn Alley potions laboratory. She speaks of a great cause, of a Dark Lord, of purpose, of allegiance. Severus listens and watches her hair shift beneath the scant torchlight, black as midnight. They do not trust each other but Severus wants to fight for purity of blood.
Severus will never father children. He is the worst kind of half-blood and his kind must be eliminated to make sure the pure-blood families survive untainted. He does not mind. He drinks bitter oak mead at Narcissa's wedding to Lucius Malfoy. A true pure-blood union, and the celebrations stretch into a week. Their children will be magnificent.
The Dark Lord's forces are on the move and Severus brews Polyjuice and Veritaserum by the vat. He rolls up his sleeves before he begins to work and takes comfort in the beautiful darkness of his Mark. The Mark of his Lord, whose name they dare not speak.
Severus used to dream of throne rooms and vassals. Now he has sworn allegiance to a liege lord, himself. Now Severus is the servant -- but that is the way it should be. Severus is the worst kind of half-blood.
Severus delivers information about a prophecy to his Lord; he does not ask questions. He spends time with his potions until he hears that the Dark Lord had gone to murder James Potter. Severus's thumb rubs circles into the spot just below his Mark. James Potter is worse than Sirius Black, and Severus hates him. James Potter saved Severus's life.
The old man Dumbledore is quiet while Severus talks. His blue eyes are like Narcissa's and Severus wonders if Narcissa's new child is safe. Severus tells the old man about being the worst kind of half-blood, and Dumbledore chuckles, though there is no humour in his voice.
When Severus learns that his Lord is the worst kind of half-blood, he spends many grey hours alone. Outside, black snow is falling and Severus watches the flakes dance across his vision. Bellatrix Black is in Azkaban and James Potter's toddler son has defeated the Dark Lord.
Nothing makes sense to Severus and he pledges allegiance to yet another man.
Severus makes excuses, creates cover stories, purchases alibis. He has learned a lot and he knows that the Dark Lord will be returning. He waits for the Mark to give him the signal again. When it does, everything is in place. The Potter boy lives.
With Sirius Black, the family is dead. Severus is not sure when he had started to fight against the pure-bloods, he just knows that he wants them all gone from the face of the world. All but Narcissa and her son. If they can allow the worst kind of half-blood to fool them once, they'll allow it twice. Severus wears black but he grieves not for the Black family.
Narcissa is on the verge of tears but Severus has to answer to Bellatrix first. She speaks of fidelity, not knowing that her allegiance is an obligation. It is not real, and so Severus knows how to deal with Bellatrix. He pacifies her with reason, and then Narcissa asks him to protect her only son.
Severus makes the Unbreakable Vow for Narcissa because he knows where his true loyalties lie. The old man has told him this would come to pass. Severus is prepared to follow his orders, because he swore an oath of allegiance that is stronger than an Unbreakable Vow. Severus is trusted equally by the opposing sides of a giant chess game, yet no matter where he turns, the pieces are black.
The old man is dying. Draco's wand arm lowers and Severus asks Dumbledore for instructions, there in that silence. The old man tells him that he knows what must be done, but Severus cannot do it. "Severus," admonishes the old man out loud. "Goodbye," says Severus in his mind and the old man's beard twitches.
Thus passes the only man to whom Severus was devoted. Now the only man remaining is one whom Severus is obligated to serve.
The Potter brat is reticent; he thinks he can battle the Half-Blood Prince. Severus lies to the Death Eaters, making sure the brat is safe, because that had been the old man's dying order.
Draco is gone and they both will soon be hunted. The Dark Lord shall not forgive Draco for failing his mission. He shall not forgive Severus for failing to bring him Potter. Severus's allegiances are twined together on the tapestry of this chessboard like stems of poison ivy. His oath to the Dark Lord obliges him to serve his lord. His Vow to Narcissa obliges him to protect her only son.
When the Dark Lord is destroyed, Draco will be safe.
Since the age of eleven, Severus has been fettered by bonds of fidelity.
When the Dark Lord is destroyed, Severus will be free. Free forever.
The rat twitches and wails, and Severus closes his eyes, smiling a little. No one will miss a rat, not even one with a silver paw.
When the Dark Lord is destroyed, Severus will be free.
Severus has played a dangerous game all these years. The old man taught him the only lesson he's ever needed. Allegiance is true only when it is given freely of one's heart, no matter how jaded or black that heart may be.
The house on Spinner's End burns brightly, sparks colouring the evening like macabre fireworks. Within, it is Gehenna, orange flames licking the windows in a mockery of winter. At the centre of the fire, a small piece of magical silver melts into a puddle and evaporates.
Severus walks away into the waiting darkness of the wood, and thinks of Bellatrix.