Midnight tolled in the distance, yet the man did not move. It was only the slightest of silhouettes that would have given him away, were there anyone to whom his location could have been revealed in the vicinity. The streets were silent however, and only a small, black cat wandered past him, not bothering to give him a second glance. The cat wasn’t even magical, the man thought disdainfully as he stared into the distance.
It was the backdrop against which he was set that would first have been noticed by any passer-by and then himself, if one looked particularly hard. Number twelve Grimmauld Place was not the easiest of places to miss once it had been spotted. It was the initial spotting which was most often the problem though, as it was with all houses under the Fidelius Charm.
Those who had been able to see the house were most frequently Muggles, some impervious to the concealment magic woven by witches and wizards, who thought of it as a haunted house, though one could never quite get close enough to it before something important and previously neglected had been remembered. It was for this reason that people were frequently seen walking at speed away from the area.
Severus Snape was standing out in the rain, mindless of the way his robes became increasingly damp as time wore on. He no longer had entrance to the house which loomed over him but that would not stop him wandering by every now and again, especially when he knew what would be happening in various other spots around the country. Right then Grimmauld Place was probably one of the safest locations around, excluding Hogwarts but that was certainly off limits to the man who had killed Albus Dumbledore.
He massaged his aching temples at the thought of that dreadful deed he had committed. The moment he had spoken those two words he had known it was over for them, and Voldemort would certainly be triumphant. It was surely the one thing he could have done to ensure that the Order would lose but, to be perfectly honest, Severus didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything anymore; he didn’t care that Voldemort was taking over the world one small step at a time, he didn’t care that he was deliberately disobeying orders from a man who would kill him with a flick of the wrist and he didn’t care that Potter had run off to get himself killed.
They thought that they’d found them all. They thought that there were six Horcruxes and Voldemort himself. Two had already gone, four had been found and now Potter was gallivanting off across London to get himself blown up. Supposedly he was the only one with the power to destroy Voldemort and Severus was still going to let him die.
A sigh punctuated the silence around him and Severus wished he’d withheld it. It was all far too quiet for his liking. He knew that things were never as easy as the Order had wanted them to be. Voldemort was not a moron, although, from the assumptions made by the Order, they evidently thought that he was. Severus shook his head in utter disbelief at the organisation he had once worked for who were of the apparent belief that Voldemort would not have a back up plan or something they had not foreseen. Despite the fact that Voldemort was well known for his unpredictability, the Order had allowed Potter to go after him alone whilst they fought the Death Eaters in the north.
They were doing exactly what Voldemort had wanted and expected them to do.
The single silhouette began to pace restlessly outside the building, unnoticed entirely. His fingers curled into fists and he wanted so desperately to hit something, or someone. It was his pure hatred of his task that had made him able to kill Dumbledore, he remembered suddenly. Perhaps somehow his similarly pure hatred of Voldemort would be able to assist him in bringing down the Dark Lord. No… he had heard the prophecy and as both parties not only worked with it but believed in it then the prediction would almost certainly come to pass.
It was a pity; he would have loved to have been the one to bring down the man who had ruined his entire life. After all, he had already taken down Dumbledore, killing Voldemort would possibly have cancelled out the terrible deed. Or perhaps it would have made him twice as bad as he already was. Merlin, how he wished there was someone there for him to hex, though the Death Eaters no longer sought out his company. He had ignored them for too long, their conversation becoming Gobbledegook the more they tried to communicate.
His mind returned to Potter. Time was slowly trickling away from him and if he was going to do anything this time then he had to act fast. The question was not ‘did he want Voldemort to die?’, it was ‘could he live with the death of the last of the Potters on his shoulders with his parents?’
Potter couldn’t even save himself… he had been a fool to trust the adults. Surely by now he should have learnt that the Order was an incompetent bunch of fools. Apparently he had not, and it was going to cost him his life. None of them, not even Potter, had thought to consider what the consequences would have been had they miscalculated, had their timing been incorrect, had they missed a Horcrux on their hunt.
Severus would be the only one left who had known it all, apart from the location of the Horcrux. No one was trusted to such an extent; Voldemort would not entrust his life to anyone. Severus would be the last one with the power to do something with what little knowledge he had but in such a state of disinterest and indifference, did he really have it in him to do anything?
The vision of Godric’s Hollow clouded his vision momentarily with the little things left in the rubble. Perhaps it had been that which had made the experience so much more real than it would otherwise have been; seeing the fragments of a life left lying on the ground, buried under remnants of the walls which had once surrounded them and the family to which they belonged. A feeling of emptiness washed over him and gripped at him to that day upon seeing the objects which had been so very vivid in the rubble, permeating his dazed thoughts and lodging themselves firmly in his mind. A broom… a tricycle… shattered wedding photos… a snuffbox… a cold, lifeless arm and the cry of an infant…
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave Potter to die. He sighed into the night. He supposed he should go save Potter before it was too late, or at least destroy the last Horcrux.
So, with some inkling of determination and a set of rather wet robes, Severus Snape set off to save the lives of Potter and probably the rest of Britain. Perhaps even the world. He took a deep breath and then he realised he had absolutely no idea where the last Horcrux was or how to go about destroying it, even if he had been privy to that particular piece of knowledge.
The temptation to sit down on the floor and give up entirely was overwhelming, almost as overwhelming as it had been to save Potter only moments earlier. He couldn’t give up now though, not when he had come to a decision and he was so very wet. There was only one thing for it then. He was going to have to save Harry himself. He repressed the urge to hit and kick at the tree beside him as he curled his fingers into fists and marched down the street, his robes billowing out spectacularly behind him. If he was going to join Potter in his green and flashy death then he may as well do it with at least some style and melodrama, Severus reasoned.
Voldemort was in Diagon Alley. Potter would be making his way there very soon. All Floo had been disabled. Apparition wards were around the Wizarding shopping area. Severus pulled his wand out of his robes and began to run, faster than he had ever run before and with more determination and purpose.
It was an odd thing that the further Severus ran the more the thoughts seemed to pour into his mind. Thoughts that had never quite made it into coherency before but that had always been niggling at his subconscious, forever batted away by a mind trained to accept nothing but the present dilemma.
Still, things were starting to fail to make sense the further he ran. Potter had supposedly come up with a fool-proof plan for finding all the Horcruxes in Britain. So it was Potter they were talking about – fool-proof therefore meant very little – but the fact remained that the boy was no idiot. He would not knowingly endanger his own life without good cause and, since no one he loved was in grave danger, then he should have been in a reasonably sensible state. It was unlike him to miss something as huge as a Horcrux.
The Order should have checked and double checked to ensure that there was no way Potter was pitting himself against a man who could not die. Evidently that task had not been completed, Severus thought as his feet thudded against the pavement in a rhythm which was almost hypnotic.
Trees and bushes, houses and fences, cats, dustbins and cars passed in a blur as he ran on, not noticing the way his feet slowed as his mind quickened. Things were beginning to click into place and Severus realised just how clever Voldemort had been in not allowing him to think. Severus had not needed to think in a long time; all thought had been done for him: he had not needed to plan, to think things through, or even to decide what to do with his time. It had all been done for him. His analytical mind was out of use and it was finally working again as the reaper sharpened his scythe.
Severus came to a halt, his lungs burning, his legs aching and his mind on overdrive. Potter had missed a Horcrux. Dumbledore had once said something about the danger of a Horcrux being alive but he had dismissed it at the time. He remembered Lupin lowering his wand against Harry when he had been unable to harm him in a duel. He had done the same himself after he had left with the Death Eaters after killing Dumbledore and throughout it all the prophecy repeated in his head.
The one with the power to vanquish the dark lord approaches ... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.
…but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…
Was that because no one was able to kill Harry...? Because they cared about him...?
Potter had always had a very strong connection to Voldemort, had always been able to sense him and even communicate at times. It was not natural for a curse to make such a bond… They were joined, certainly. Unnaturally. During an important death which would have made a Horcrux… The last Horcrux. What if the last Horcrux had already been made? What if there had been seven Horcruxes because Voldemort had realised too late what he’d done?
It was unconceivable but Potter – the Horcrux?! The control Voldemort had been able to establish over him was such strong evidence but he had tried to kill Harry so many times... because he didn't know Harry existed as an extra Horcrux until later on. He hadn’t planned for seven but he had been given them nonetheless.
He was going to be sick. Severus was doubled over in the street, gasping for breath as ideas flooded his mind and overwhelmed him. Why the hell had no one told him what exercise and panic could do before?!
Potter the Horcrux. He couldn't get his head around it. Voldemort was going to kill the last remaining part of himself... he would be mortal. Then again, it would not be easy for anyone to kill him, except for Potter with all the help he would have from the Order. Except they didn't know he'd need help because was the only one able to kill him and he’d also have to be dead before Voldemort was mortal. He would be entirely without assistance. That meant he, Severus, would have to help... he sighed and started to run again, realising that as he did so he would also have to be the one to tell Harry the truth about himself and what he would eventually have to do.
He was already imagining a conversation between himself and the victorious Potter. Victorious Potter wasn’t pleased about the fact that to kill Voldemort once and for all he would have to commit suicide in these mental scenarios and Severus blocked them out as he sprinted all out to the Wizarding street ahead.
The entire place was deserted except for two figures at the other end of the street towards Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes. Severus resisted the urge to scream; surely he had run far enough? He raced along the road, his feet echoing along the pavement in time with his pounding pulse and, when he finally came to a stop, he felt his legs threatening to give way beneath him. He was too old for this.
Severus wasted no time upon his arrival and threw all his power as a Legilimens into Potter’s mind.
“I’m a Horcrux… I’m a Horcrux… I have to do this…” Harry’s mind repeated again and again, not caring that Snape had just invaded his mind and decided to stand there being useless… unless?
A flash of green light lit the area. Severus felt his heart stop as Harry crumpled to the ground, their eyes meeting for a moment until the life was drained from a pair of them. He could only pray that he’d been right. Harry could not have died for nothing.
Severus was behind Voldemort. He didn’t turn around to face his servant – Voldemort knew who he was, he knew that he was there and he thought he knew why Severus had joined him that night. Severus, his most faithful servant who had killed Dumbledore to fulfil a task that Draco had been unable to complete. He was there to witness his final moment. To be awed by his power. To—
“Avada Kedavra.” The curse was repeated and left an awful sensation in Severus’s mouth as he watched Voldemort drop silently to the ground to lie next to Harry. Power emanated from Voldemort as he fell, a man who had tried to take more than his fair share of life and Severus felt shivers run up his spine and an uncomfortable prickle at the back of his neck.
He wondered, as he stared down at the two lifeless forms, why not one single member of the Order had been there to help their ‘hero’ when he needed it most. Severus was well aware that an attack had been scheduled on Hogsmeade at the same time, effectively forcing the Order to be at one location or the other but for Harry to die with only Voldemort and himself there with him. It was just the exact opposite of what Potter would have wanted and deserved.
Severus felt his knees finally give in and he sank to the ground. He was sitting next to two corpses. The Aurors would be on their way and would find him next to The Boy Who Lived and You Know Who. It was not going to be a good position in which to be discovered. Yet Severus no longer cared. Why should he?
Of course he supposed that he could move and leave the scene. They would not bother to check everything out; it was clear what had happened – they had both cast the curse at the same time and both had been killed instantly. End of story. Besides, it wouldn’t matter now that Voldemort had been killed. Even the Order would celebrate, though their saviour was dead. They would not mourn his loss; they would barely remember him.
Severus felt an odd sense of emotion in him at that thought and knew that he ought to leave. He needed a new life, to sever all ties with his old one and to start afresh. He would never be accepted back into the Order after this and it wasn’t right for him to cling onto acquaintances that had known him for so long but didn’t care for him. They all had their own lives anyway.
A loud crack resonated around the area and Severus leapt to his feet, wondering whether he’d lingered too long and the Aurors had already arrived.
Lupin almost fell over as he Apparated into the clearing and Severus watched his eyes widen in horror at the sight that met them: Harry looking distinctly lacking in life next to Voldemort who was in pretty much the same state.
“No…” Remus murmured as he dropped to the floor next to Harry, his fingers pressing against his neck and his eyes rather more shiny than they usually were.
Severus smirked at the man’s obvious distress and show of emotion. He wondered what would happen to Lupin before he decided that then would be a good time to Apparate and leave the scene. He thought about where he'd go... another country might be nice. Somewhere warm, without as much rain, without as many memories.
He stared up at the sky for a moment, his eyes taking in the vast constellations displayed for him. How many other people were staring at them right then, just as he was? The cool rain, halting slightly, felt good against his eyelids as they shut momentarily. Not a sound met his ears, nor a sight his eyes. He could smell the rain, though the idea itself was ludicrous, and the hard cobbled stones dug into his knees.
‘You will always be welcome here at Hogwarts, Severus.’ The voice of Albus Dumbledore repeated in his mind. He wondered whether he was going mad before he sighed and glanced down at Lupin who merely stared at Harry’s lifeless form. He knew where he had to go now.
Minerva was alive, he knew that, though she had almost been suffocated by some Garrotting Gas the last he’d heard. She would give him his old job back; the defence post was empty again and he had no desire to return to the dungeons so soon.
He appeared just outside Hogwarts in the pouring rain which was so different to that in the south. The school was deserted. So much for somewhere without as much rain, Severus thought grimly. Despite the weather, the expression on his face morphed into something which was almost a smile. Phoenix song reached his ears from somewhere overhead and he walked through the gates soaked, a murderer, alone, a teacher-to-be, but happy nevertheless.
A/N: This was my writers' duel submission for the Halloween 05 one. It got no votes but at least I liked it...
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