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                                                           YEAR ONE



That night the sky themselves mourned. Great tears of heaven fell in fat drops onto the roof of the dark house---though shack would have been a better word for the small building where boards hung at awkward and unsightly angles, nailed for the sole purpose of covering holes in the original, rotting layer, shutters hung on hinges, and the ceiling let in droplets. Flashing of lightning illuminated the dark world for moments, highlighting the boiling and overstuffed navy blue clouds, only to be followed by a sob of thunder that would cause the whole earth to shudder. Harsh winds caused trees to bend as though they too could not bare the heavy weight of what had been and would be that night. The ground inked thick mud, soaked until it was soggy, like a comforting friend’s shoulder. It seemed nature foresaw the next hour and felt the grief. For not even magic or the ever powerful time could heal the wounds that would be afflicted on Severus Snape’s heart.

The heavens once again flashed with amber light and it splashed through the window in a stream of light that momentarily lit the inside of an arm sprawled out and being surveyed by black eyes, shining every detail of the image tattooed into the skin. The skull and snake were aglow with the brilliant light for a heartbeat too long for the likes of the Dark Mark’s owner, proving that it was there. Reminding that, despite the choices he had made that night, it would forever be branded into his flesh, a steady testimony to all he had done, all he had been. It was only justice, for a man like him did not deserve to forget. But by Merlin, he would make things right.

Severus rolled down his sleeve, covering the Mark by the dark fabric of his robes, saving his mind from the memories just a glance at it brought. But memories were one thing, easily pressed aside---not forgot, but not dwelt upon---but there was no escaping what might come.

His decision had been long in the making, what he had known was right for years. He had first joined the Death Eaters, hoping that by bringing pain and by delving into the fascinating Dark Arts, he could end the agony that had brought upon him his entire life---no, not his entire life. He had learned to survive what his parents had done to him, but that rejection, that loved-and-lost hurt, was nearly too much to bare. Not that he blamed anyone but himself. He was not so ignorant or arrogant to believe that any other them himself could cause him to do something he would not have otherwise. Influenced, perhaps. But in the end it had been his choice, his greatest folly.

But each time he did an act that years under the grand Dumbledore’s tutoring told him were wrong, his heart and conscience (yes, he did have both) told him he was horrible---evil. He’d ignored the torturous nagging and the self-loathing for years. But now that he had unknowingly, endangered her life, he could no longer claim faithfulness to the Dark Lord. He could no more stand the sight of him without feeling utmost disgust and enmity, knowing he what he plotted. And for the first time Severus had done the right thing.

He had warned Dumbledore and now was no more loyal to the Dark Lord, but to a man far more kinder and wiser and much, much more powerful: Dumbledore. Even knowing he had done the right thing didn’t ease Severus’s concerns. Betraying the Dark Lord was nothing to shrug at, let alone turning spy. Being an enemy trapped within the Dark Lord’s clutches was not a comfortable position to be in. It would be a life full of danger, but better a doomed spy than a damned Death Eater.

Severus felt suddenly tired and thought wistfully of his bed, but even he knew if the Dark Lord discovered what he had done, he might never awake. Today had been such a day, that even a risky slumber was too tempting to deny. He was leaning forward to blow out the candle when there was a loud, ear-shaking crack! that didn’t belong to thunder.

“Severus---” hissed a familiar room and Severus looked up sharply to see the one person he most didn’t want to met today---well, perhaps except the Dark Lord.

Ellessa Harden had always been beautiful and now was no different. Her usually straight blond hair that flowed down her back to her waist, was in windblown tangles, damp strands clinging to her perfect nose. Her crystal blue eyes gleamed luminously, the blue pools filled with a sharp urgency that was reflected in her soft, delicate, and beautiful features. She held her head high, her graceful, swan-like neck stretching upward. She was dressed in rain sprinkled robes, black and flowing, and one fine-boned hand was laid over her belly protectively. The other, as it so frequently was, was a fist in her pocket as she wrapped her long fingers around her wand, ever prepared to let out her fiery, independent spirit in a painful curse.

In the wizarding world, Apparating into someone’s house was extremely rude, but since when had Ellessa cared when she offended someone?

Severus drew himself to his feet, towering powerfully and erect, and let his mouth move into a sneer. “Ellessa,” was the only greeting he gave.

“Forgive the intrusion,” she said, though she felt nothing close to apologetic, “but I needed to speak with you immediately.”

Speaking? Is that what she wanted? It wasn’t often what she requested. When Severus looked at her, he saw yet another one of his mistakes that would haunt him for as long as the Dark Mark on his arm. He hated himself for what had come between them. He didn’t understand what had possessed him to start the relationship, only that he had once again been hurt by her and he’d wanted to force himself to feel for someone---anyone---else. But he couldn’t understand how he had been so desperate as to choose Ellessa Harden. She was beautiful, yes, but he didn’t love her---he didn’t even like her. Perhaps she had come at a good time, so he could end the relationship that he should have stopped before it started.

“Very well,” he said tolerantly. “What do you want?”

“First, I want to know why you’ve been avoiding me.” She crossed her arms over her chest and flipped her long head of hair, the way when she did when she was angry, or feeling especially conceited, or…actually he wasn’t sure why she did it, only that she did it far too much.

The truth was that he’d withdrawn himself because he could stand her, but the truth would get him a life-threatening jinx in the face. Smoothly, as he did so easily, he lied. “Things have been complicated, Ellessa. The Dark Lord comes before everything…even before you.”

Ellessa nose wrinkled in disbelief, but she didn’t press any farther. She had other much more important things on her mind. “Severus, I’m not sure how to say this.”

Ellessa---Madam I-Have-An-Opinion-About-Everything---struggled to find words? It was a terrible omen and Severus felt hidden emotion stab his stomach. No, this wasn’t going to be good.

“Then just say it,” he pressed impatiently. If she had bad news, he wanted it out and over with, before his nerves had the opportunity to wonder for long.

There were thousands of things that Ellessa could have stunned Severus. She could have told him she was a figment of his imagination or that she was in love with the Dark Lord. She could tell him she was really a house-elf or was a fuzzy, pink unicorn animagus. None would have shocked him quite as much as what she said, perfectly serious. It was so astonishing that it nearly frightened him and Severus Snape was never afraid.

Until now.

“Severus, I’m pregnant.”

Disbelief and horror hit him hard and fast making his knees sway unsteadily and he pressed his palm into the desk to keep himself from buckling in a dead faint. Perhaps he had heard incorrectly; perhaps Ellessa was making some kind of cruel joke. That had to be it, because his mistake when it came to Ellessa could not have such dire consequences.

For a moment he could only stare at her, as though expecting her to laugh and say, “Got you good, Sevvy,” in that annoying, taunting voice. But Ellessa only stood there, her face solemn and even a bit fearful. She was not joking.

When Severus spoke his voice was hesitant, as though trusting his voice as much as he trusted thin ice. “Are…are you sure?”

She nodded, no doubt whatsoever in her eyes, only paralyzing surety.

That’s when it hit him, winding him as much as a physical blow to the stomach. He was going to be a father. The woman before him---the same woman he despised and represented a thousand mistakes---bore his child in her womb. Being a father was something he had never considered and if he had it had never been consciously, only a passing fleeting thought. And once he had become a Death Eater, starting a family had gone against each desire and possibility. But yet, here he was. An expecting father.

His mind whirled and cool, calculative Severus who was ever aware of the steps he should take, was confused. “What are we going to do?”

Ellessa closed the distance between them, rounding the desk until she stood before. In her eyes he read that she did indeed have a plan, but he didn’t like the dreamy sparkle he saw there or the way she tenderly took his hands between hers and met his eyes with that same misty note. “We get married.”

Severus had had quite enough surprises for tonight and his nerves were drawn tauter than a stretched drum. He jerked his hands away from Ellessa’s and took a stumbling step backwards. “Married?” The thought of being tied to Ellessa ’til-death-did-they-part was beyond scary---it was a bloody nightmare.

Ellessa’s eyes crackled with sudden anger, but what had she expected? Him to fall down on one knee and beg for her hand? To be thrilled at the thought of spending forever with her? For him to take her into his arms and assure her they’d work through this unplanned pregnancy? Well, he wasn’t about to do any of that. And Ellessa always got angry when she didn’t get what she wanted.

“Yes, married,” she snapped haughtily. “After all, it’s the only logical explanation. Besides---” She flipped her hair again and it cascaded off her shoulders in blond streams. “You’d be lucky to have me.”

Lucky wasn’t the first word he would have chosen. When it came to Ellessa lucky wasn’t even in the vocabulary. Severus had an image of what it would be like. Just like his parents they would hate grow to hate each other, yell and scream and curse at the sight of one another, perhaps while another child curled in the corner, too petrified to so much as cry. No, Severus refused to do that to his child. If he was to raise a child, he would raise it the way he’d never been. He’d sworn that much to himself years ago.

“I don’t think so, Ellessa. A marriage between us would never work.”

Again her eyes flashed. “Why not? You love me don’t you.”

Love. That was a word he could only admit to ever feeling for one person, a person who was as different from Ellessa as the sun was from the moon. No, he didn’t love Ellessa; he never could.

But if he told her the truth, the wand in her pocket would be out before he could prepare a counter-curse and if he lied, he’d be at the altar before he could protest. So, slyly, he said, “Love is such a strong word, Ellessa.”

Ellessa gaze darkened, making her baby-blue eyes look like a churning ocean. “But what about our child?”

That promise was still fresh in his mind. He’d be a father that his own had not. It was his responsibility now, the mistakes of his consequences, and he would own up to it. “I will be the father I’m meant to be, Ellessa. I will do my part.”

Ellessa was now beyond angry; she was outraged, shaking with fury. “You will commit to the child, but not to me?”

Severus wanted to say something to cool her temper, but she was right. There was nothing he could do but nod and say, “Yes.”

“That’s not going to happen, Severus.” With her lips twisting into a sneer, her eyes blazing, and her windblown hair tossing wildly, she looked demonic, but Severus was unmoved. He’d faced worse rage than that of a peevish woman. “If you will not have me, you can’t have my child.”

It was Severus’s turn to feel anger. She would dare threaten him! His eyes narrowed into a glare and his lips twisted into a snarl, he growled. “It’s our child, Ellessa.”

For the first time, Ellessa’s hand moved from her wand pocket, but wasn’t clenching her wand. Harmlessly, she shoved him, the force sending him back a few steps, but he twisted his heel and caught his balance. “Look, Severus,” Ellessa hissed. “Your loyalty to the Dark Lord is in question, do you understand that? The Dark Lord might believe you are still chummy, but Mordecai has warned me---” Severus sneer deepened in distaste as she mentioned her odious older brother. --- “and I’m beginning to believe him. But if you marry me, a fellow Death Eater, no one will doubt you ever again. What say you, Severus?”

Her persuasion didn’t help her in the least, only made him more unwilling to tie himself to her. He didn’t wish to be bond to the Dark Lord anymore than he already was and he wouldn’t betray Dumbledore.


What?” Ellessa cried.

“I said no.”

Ellessa seemed to accept the answer, because a steely determination replaced her anger and she drew herself up straight and regal. Her voice was controlled and firm. “Then, Severus, you will never see your child.”

Before Severus could protest, reach out, draw his wand, or do anything to stop her there was another crack! and, as lightning flashed outside the window and shone throughout the entire room in a blinding orange light only to disappear moments later, Ellessa was gone.

And Severus never saw her again. 

No one had seen or heard from Ellessa Harden or her good-for-nothing brother, Mordecai. None of the Death Eaters had any idea where she had disappeared to and the Dark Lord had pegged them as betrayers. None of them understood what would lead her away from faithful service from the Dark Lord---except for Severus Snape.

There wasn’t a day that passed that he didn’t unconsciously wonder where she was and if he would be able to find his child. He mused on how the pregnancy was going, whether the baby was healthy or strong, and he felt great guilt. The baby was his responsibility, and for someone who was immensely responsible, he felt worthless, unable to be the father he was supposed to be. But worse, Ellessa Harden was cruel and heartless, one who could never feel sympathy or love for a child. The baby would be nothing more than a pawn to play with and to punish. And when she abused the child, it would be all Severus’s fault.

As much as he tried to make himself forget, Severus could not. The nagging knowledge was always eating away at the back of his mind, tormenting him even in his sleep.

But nothing tormented more than the owl arriving on that balmy July day at that same shack he had first heard the news that he had first heard the news of Ellessa’s pregnancy. He was sitting at his desk, filling out a report for the Order of the Phoenix, when he heard the tapping on the cracked window. No sooner had he glanced than he knew whose owl it was; it was impossible not to recognize the snowy owl or the way the package was tied to its leg with a frilly pink string.

Unsure what to expect, but feeling excitement all the same, he hurried to the window and flung it open. The snowy owl fluttered in and landed gracefully on his desk, jiggling and stretching its wings in a show of it’s pretty feathers. Ignoring its flapping wings, Severus untied the envelope, seeing his name scrawled over it in reflective black ink. Loosed from its duty, the owl sprang upward. Severus tried to stop it; it was his only connection to Ellessa, but his grasping hand missed its tail feathers. With an indignant hoot, the bird took out the window and was soon a white speck in the sky.

With a harsh word, Severus resigned that he would be unable to reply to Ellessa. He turned to the letter in his hand and, sliding his finger beneath the flap, he tore it open with a few careful jerks. The thin slip of paper fell from it and he caught it before it danced to the dusty floor. Unfolding it, his eyes feasted greedily on the words.

Our child was born yesterday. 

Severus did the math quickly; the baby was two months premature.

Nothing has changed, Severus. You’ll never see her. Never.

Severus felt his knees weaken and he slumped into his chair. Her. He had a daughter, a daughter he would never know.

He did not doubt what Ellessa said to be true. Once she set her mind to something, she didn’t falter for so much as a moment. And with his position as a spy, he couldn’t risk going to find her, searching for his child if nothing more than the attempt to take her from the clutches of a diabolical woman.

He wondered about the little baby girl for a second, whether she had his eyes or Ellessa’s, or whether she had blond hair or black. He mused about whether she was healthy, hoping, for the baby’s sake, she was, but doubted, because of her being premature.

For a moment, a doubting voice crept into his mind. Perhaps she wasn’t premature at all. Perhaps she wasn’t even his.

Searching for more answer, he looked back at the letter, seeing something peeking from the envelope. It was small and almost square; a photograph. Leave it to Ellessa to send him a picture to torment him with the sight of a child he could never so much as hold. He pulled it from the envelope and turned it over in his hands. For someone who hardly felt such emotions as tenderness and fondness, the sight of the picture took his breath away and banished every doubt that it was not his baby.

Wrapped in downy, white blankets the small baby was the picture of angelic innocence. The girl had the soft features of her mother, making her beyond adorable, but on her tiny head was a fluffy layer of dark hair and below long eyelashes were obsidian eyes that sparkled like onyx. His eyes.

In an instant his thinking of the child changed. The baby in the picture was no longer a mistake, a consequence, or even a responsibility. She was something much more profound; a living, breathing child. Yet she was not just any newborn child; she had been brought into this world by him and was a part of him, something he had created, something wound into the recesses of his heart.

“My daughter,” he breathed, lowly, as he stroked a thumb over the picture. “You’re my daughter.”

A daughter he would never be able to hold or to watch grow through the years. A daughter he could not fulfill the promise that he would be everything his father wasn’t. A daughter would never know her father. A daughter he would be forced to forget, though his heart would always remember. A daughter who would always be sown into his heart---a part of him. A daughter that he would always---if he could feel such an emotion to anyone---love. A daughter he would never know.

Severus fell to his knees and let out a scream of anguish.

Outside the weather began to change and, through the heat, the churning, dark clouds let spill wet drops that pattered thickly on the window pane---the heavens mourning for the daughter that Severus Snape had lost.

chapter image by caren

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