Chapter One: Smoke and Mirrors
Smoke rising, fog rising, breath rising. No, no…not again…not waking up to yet another round of sport…no, no, just let it all melt away with the pain…
Snape felt the grip of pain, and his consciousness washing over him like cold water or snow-stained wind. He breathed through his teeth and felt them freeze, tingling down through his gums. He tried to pull his cloak around him further, but his right hand made no motion. No…his entire right side was numb and motionless, like ice. He tried to crane up his neck, and the shooting pain made him fall back with a groan.
He was lying on a cot somewhere, and there was a candle blazing nearby…he could make out the light, but it took a long while for it to coalesce into any definite vision. What was wrong with his eyes? Oh, what was happening…?
He snapped his gaze across the room and made out a caped figure standing there. His vision was blurry, but he knew who it was without a doubt. “Potter.” He bit down on his lip. “What…what have you done…?”
“Killed Voldemort,” he stated, and then added with a resentful edge in his voice, “Your old lord and master, it seems.”
He propped himself up as best he could with one good arm. “How…?”
“I know what you’re thinking; that I should be dead. Well, for the record, the dark lord did take another shot at achieving that result, but he destroyed only the Horcrux inside me. When I woke up, I went into the battle, and the Elder Wand answered to me alone. So it seems the dark lord need not have set his snake on you at all…though I suppose it did deserve a decent last meal before it lost its head.”
Snape ignored the cutting remark; he was too consumed with the news of Voldemort’s demise. After all this time…the prophecy was fulfilled. The one who could not be named had been undone, shredded like paper, and the reason for Snape’s continued existence consummated. His heart thudded heavy, like lead, sinking like a stone in the sea.
He turned as best he could towards his former student. “What am I doing here? What did you…?”
“You had a potion in your possession, one which you must have been working on for quite some time to deal with just such an unfortunate incident. Evidently your method to put a stopper – even a temporary one – in death?”
Snape instantly knew what he was referring to, and shuddered. “You would torture me by prolonging my life for a mere couple of weeks in agony…to what end?”
“To ask you questions which need answering,” he responded with an increasing edge in his voice. “No one else knows you’re alive, so they won’t be searching the grounds for you, even if most of them would be baying for your blood. This shack leaves you fully at my mercy. And if you prove uncooperative…perhaps this will give me the chance to see the level of courage you actually have.”
“So you couldn’t have the courtesy of letting me die, you had to revive for the satisfaction of your warped little mind?”
Harry clenched his fists. “I want answers, Snape!”
“Oh, still with your father’s chip on your shoulder…”
“Shut your mouth, death-eater! It was your own damned fault they died! I hope you die, I hope you die slowly and in pain!” Harry felt the sheer level of rage cause tears to prickle in his eyes. He waited for his professor’s response to his explosion, but only saw the pain he had cursed him with swimming in the man’s own dark eyes. “What made you do it, Snape?” Harry demanded, but his voice was breaking now. “You turned to the dark arts, even though you knew it would break my mother’s heart. If you really loved her, how could you do it when you knew you would lose her over it?”
“You know, Potter,” he whispered lowly, almost like the growl of an injured animal. “Do not play innocent with me. You know the pull of the undercurrent well enough. It plays upon both strengths and weaknesses with utmost subtlety. Do you think I have not seen it playing on you down through the years? I more than others am familiar with the symptoms. Do not think yourself immune. You have shared a part of the dark lord’s soul for far too long.”
“Dumbledore taught me that a person is made not of attributes, but of choices…”
“Dumbledore?!” Snape spat, and there was pure hatred in his eyes, boring through his usual slicked-back sarcasm. “You were nothing but a pawn in his game, a pig for slaughter, like your parents! And I…I begged him…” He forced himself to calm down, feeling his blood boiling at the thought of Dumbledore luring him into a life as a double spy in Lily’s name. Now he felt sure that physical imprisonment and torture would have been the kinder option.
“It wasn’t his fault my parents were betrayed,” Harry defended. “As he said, they put their faith in the wrong people…” The emphasis contained an obvious strain of condemnation.
“He demanded an exchange to save them!” Snape blurted. “He…dared demand an exchange for their lives. So you think I am evil? But tell me, what decent man would do that? My soul was twice sold…once to the dark lord, with his brand, and a second time to Dumbledore for his tender mercies.”
“He spared your life, and that’s far better than you deserved!” Harry shot back. “By all rights, you should have spent the end of your days rotting in Azkaban with the dementors for your only company.”
“Do you take me for a mouse, Potter?” he sneered. “Azkaban…I would have preferred that to yet another lord over me, using me for his ends under the guise of letting me…redeem myself. Redemption be damned, if at that price!” He shook his head. “But no…he never truly thought…redemption would be mine. It made it easier to have me be the one to end his life. The Malfoy boy was salvageable, but a marked death-eater, no…I was an expedient means to an end…like you were, Chosen One. He played us both false for the sake of his precious cause, to be a hero at the expense of those who got in his way. It was all a great game of wizard’s chess, of smoke and mirrors, and the constant taste of swallowing back death.”
“I’m sorry, Snape, but I can feel no pity for you…I can’t…not after all you’ve done to me and my family,” Harry choked.
“I never…asked for pity…did I?”
The young wizard turned towards the door, preparing to leave.
“Potter, you’ve gotten what you want now,” he panted, the suffering swelling his tongue. “Finish it…use…use the wand…”
“What, you want me to follow your example?”
“It was according to Dumbledore’s choice and plan that I should administer the final blow. I assure you…I showed him far more mercy…than you are showing now.”
“Did I ever say I was merciful?”
Snape smirked, a cynical and raw expression. “You see, Potter? We all have our undercurrent…do we not?” A spasm of pain ran down his spine, and he writhed against the cot for a moment before regaining control of himself.
For several moments more, he sensed the boy studying him. Then the candle went out and he heard him walk away, and the door shut behind him. Snape shivered. The pain of cold could be crueler than the pain of any heat…that was the truest nature of an inner Hell…
How long…would it take…for the end to come? A week, or two, he had said…but uncared for…hopefully it would be a much shorter duration…but even a single night in this state would feel like an eternity…he could not even move to shift out of the painful position he was in…it hurt to breathe…
No, no more of that. No more calling on her to get through. There would be no mercy from her, nor from her son. Snape had gone past the point of that, obviously. He would have to be lord of his own pain, his own cold little world.
But her name…just her name…in the silence…he could not…let it go…no, no, he held it tight against his heart, like a cloth…and let it sop up some of the blood…
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.