The darkness hid him well. Severus Snape sat amongst the shadows, listening intently. The battles fought within the walls of Hogwarts reverberated throughout the Forbidden Forest like shards of glass cutting through the very soul that he claimed to no longer own.
"The end may be here sooner than I expected, Severus."
A bright flash lit up the night's sky as Dumbledore's words echoed in his ears. Allowing himself to escape to his memories, he thought back to earlier that evening not realizing it would be his final night as Headmaster.
He was sitting behind the Headmaster's desk, Dumbledore's portrait unceremoniously hung behind it. He never thought of it as his office. He never felt it was his right to be there. Upon his word to Dumbledore, however, he swore to protect the students. Being made Headmaster was the only way to accomplish that.
The students, resilient as they tried to be, were all in their beds for the evening. The night's darkness covered the school like a thick fog. The castle, he thought, was still and silent. The Dark Lord's final order had came the night before: Ravenclaw Tower was to be guarded at all times. Use of the Mark was to be used only for confirmation of the boy's capture. Nothing else. It felt, to him at least, like final preparations were being made. . . for what, he feared to even think it. The atmosphere was charged with an energy very different than he had ever felt. His nerves were on edge as the greatest Headmaster of all time spoke to him once more.
"Far sooner than we feared," he heard the portrait whisper. He glanced out the window at the stars. "I'm afraid to say it, Severus. But we aren't as prepared as I had hoped."
The branded mark on his arm burned with a sharp, deep pain. They have him! He winced not only from the pain, but also from the realization. "I am afraid you are right, yet again, Headmaster," he spoke gravely. Holding his arm close to his side, he glanced from one portrait to another before settling on Dumbledore's solemn painted face. The sparkle behind his blue eyes had long been gone but Severus knew what little hope the Headmaster held onto, quickly faded into the darkness now surrounding them. Their only hope was to find him and . . . . .
"He must know," Dumbledore's portrait stated. "It is the only way. He must." They exchanged glances as Severus put on his black cloak. "Do what you can."
"Of course, Sir," he replied as he placed his wand in his pocket. "As always."
He walked quickly down the stairs. The night's stillness was unnerving. The entire castle felt different, on alert. He made his way past various classrooms before stopping at the entrance of the Great Hall. A small flicker of light caught his eye and although he should have ignored it, he couldn't help but glance inside.
Peering in, he thought back to his very first night at Hogwarts; where he stood, how she stood near by, both anxiously awaiting their turn under the Sorting Hat. It doesn't seem all that long ago. . . His thoughts then fell on his students as he turned towards the Slytherin table. He could recall his days sitting there and his favorite chair: hidden between what few friends he did have and with a good view of the Gryffindors . . . He glanced towards the staff table, and the chair he sat in his very first night as Head of Slytherin House. How the view is different from up there. He walked up the center aisle towards his final chair: the Headmaster's. A position he never wanted, but one he was forced to accept. All because of promises for her.
The light flickered in front of him once more as a gust of wind whipped through the Great Hall, causing him to shiver. It's begun. He glanced to the Gryffindor table and her favorite chair. He remembered her eyes. And her smile. For a second he thought he saw her again, but the memory quickly faded as the moonlight flickering through the windows became blocked by the ever growing darkness.
He thought of her and then of her son. He knew what little hope there was but . . . He had promises to keep and until his final breath he vowed to try. For her. . . . With one final look around his former home, he knew what he had to do.
Making his way through the corridors, he quickly headed towards Ravenclaw Tower. There may still be time if I could just get to him. Speak to him . . . at least explain why. . . he must know everything before. . .
It was then he saw her. Minerva, dressed in her sleeping gown, followed by someone. He's here. It has to be him. For a moment, he felt his luck might be changing. He tried to reach out to grab where he thought the boy was, but was stopped by Minerva. He fought back but to no avail. Professors Flitwick and Sprout had joined in the battle. Where did they come from?! Former colleagues fighting against him. He never realized how much he was hated until that moment. He had to escape. He retreated into a nearby classroom and with no other choice, he jumped. He felt the glass shatter around him and heard the insults being called from above but he continued on, racing through the darkness towards the perimeter wall. Coward! Ha! If they only knew . . .
What followed became nothing but a blur, as a loud boom shook the forest floor beneath him. Bloody memories! What good are they now? He shuddered as he glanced down to his tattered clothes, his left arm showing from his elbow down to his wrist. The mark's outline still burned as he sat, mesmerized by the sight of his own blood oozing down his arm. He never realized how high that window had been, until he was forced to jump out it. He could still hear them yelling at him as he escaped. Names he had been called many times before but they still hurt, especially being said from those he protected as best he could all year.
He began to clean and repair his wound when he noticed it. . . the blood was coming from the mouth of the serpent - right through the middle of the mark. How fitting. Split in two . . just like my life. He felt the inside of his shirt pocket to feel the photo still there. Along with the letter he took from the Order's headquarters not too long ago.
A loud blast ripped through the night and he glanced back towards the castle. Another wall had been blown away and the people within could be seen. He squinted to see if he could spot the boy, but his attempt was futile. They looked like little specks running around, trying to regroup.
"Well, Dumbledore. . . what is the plan now?" he spoke aloud to no one. With his escape from the castle, his plan was unclear. How was he to find the boy now? I know he was there! I could sense it! Damn that Minerva! If only I could have found him before . . . .
"Snape! Severus Snape!"
He jumped at the call of his name. Lucius Malfoy.
An eerie sense crept over him, but he thought nothing of it. Emerging from the shadows, he walked forward to face his one-time school prefect. "Yes, Malfoy," he stated calmly. "You called for me?"
"The Dark Lord," Malfoy replied, stumbling a bit in the dark. "He is asking for you."
He took in his appearance. Still swollen and bruised from a previous punishment the Dark Lord found fitting, his clothes were dirty and ragged. His once elegant and noble demeanor had faded into that of someone far beneath him. He looked nothing more than a mere shadow of his former self.
"For me?" Severus glanced back towards the castle as a loud boom rang overhead. Surely Potter hasn't . . . this quickly? He paused deep in thought for a moment before nodding to Lucius.
Another loud boom was heard overhead as the south wall of the castle was destroyed. The ground shook as it tumbled to the earth's darkness below taking not only bricks but people, both dead and alive, along with it.
"My son," Lucius whispered as he too glanced back towards the smoldering school.
Severus knew what little hope Draco had to survive the night. After his failed attempt last year, it was known by all Death Eaters he and his family were no longer welcomed in the inner circle. This, added to the fact that the Malfoy's were beginning to question what was truly right, made them marked targets for all.
"Where is the Dark Lord?" Severus questioned.
"The . . the Shrieking Shack," Lucius replied, his eyes fixed on the school they both once called home. "What have we done, Severus?" he asked, barely audible.
"More than any of us care to admit, Lucius," Severus stated, matter-of-factly. He glanced back to the castle before turning toward the overgrown pathway leading to the shack.
He glanced back.
"Good luck," he whispered, his eyes never leaving the school.
Many of their fellow Death Eaters had been summoned before. . . most never returned. Knowing this far too well, he knodded. Slowly, he walked down the pathway and through the little clearing which lead towards the shack. There was no sense in rushing. He knew what awaited him. Either Potter had been captured or killed or . . . . he shuddered at the thought.
The battle could be heard in the distance. The booms of far away spells, students and teachers alike, fighting side by side to defend their school. Their home. A home he was no longer welcomed in.
He approached the Shrieking Shack cautiously. He took one long look at the castle as one of the far off towers crumbled to the ground. Giants, spiders and creatures from all over had now joined in the battle, no one really knowing which side they were on. The forest floor shook once more as a powerful curse ricocheted off one of the remaining castle walls.
He made his way inside, expecting to see the worst. To his surprise, and relief, he glanced around to see no one but Him, the serpent like creature he was forced to call 'Lord'. He was sitting behind a table, the light from the window behind him outlining his demonic like features, his red eyes even more prominent.
"Come in, Severus."
No Potter? he thought as he entered and closed the door behind him. There is still a chance . . . if I could just get to him. . . His eyes caught sight of something sparkling above. He glanced up to see Nagini, suspended in mid-air and protected by some unseen force-field. He was right. Dumbledore was right.
The fact that the boy hadn't been caught yet and that the snake was being protected . . . there is still a chance of defeating this darkness. It was then he saw it: the Elder Wand, rolling between the fingers of its new master. He knows. Severus paced back and forth as best as he could, trying not to let the Dark Lord see he was nervous. He must have figured it out! His mind searched for the proper words but his mouth was dry. He would never fulfill his promise to keep the boy safe. Never tell him all Dumbledore meant for him to know. He had failed. In a final effort, he pleaded to go find the boy.
"No!" He shouted at him with the utmost power and authority, which he had held over him for so long. He stood as his red eyes bore into the soul of his follower.
Severus glanced above at the coiled serpent and tried to remain calm.
He knew. The Dark Lord knew. As did his servant, Severus Snape. He figured out the wand and the final steps that must be done in order to conquer it. Knowing it might be his last chance, he pleaded once more but to no avail. He thought about apparating away or trying to run but knew any attempt would be futile. He would never make it to the castle or even escape to the Forbidden Forest before being attacked by the Dark Lord or another Death Eater.
"You have been a good and faithful servant, and I regret what must happen." *
It was the last words he heard spoken. The sphere encased him. There was nothing he could do. He felt a sharp sting as the fangs of Nagini pierced his neck. The pain shot through his body like a knife, unbearable as he fell to the floor.
He did not see his former master leave nor did he realize that the sphere had released him. He was quickly losing all feeling in his legs as he tried, in vain, to get the wound on his neck to stop bleeding.
His breathing became impaired as blood oozed from his nose and mouth. He began to cough. Tears threatened his eyes, but he would not permit them to come. He thought back to that night on the astronomy tower. If only he had stunned him and not killed him. If only he had not made the promise to Dumbledore to look after the son of his lost love. If only he had not become a Death Eater at all. Maybe the end would have turned out differently. If only. . . .
He thought he heard something behind him but he was unable to move. His hearing and eyesight were starting to fade. Slowly, the figure of a young man appeared before him. The young man he had watched grow from a small child. The one he vowed to protect. . . for her.
His mind raced back to the conversations he had with Dumbledore and his portrait. All the information he needed to succeed. There was no other way. He was running out of time. He began to release all the memories the young man needed, including the precious few he held close to his heart.
Lily, he thought as the light began to fade. The love of his life appeared. She was calling him.
"Look . . . at . . . me." **
He stared into the eyes of the young man. Green . . . just . . . like . . . hers .
The darkness surrounding his life diminished and the light overtook him. His promise kept, his oath fulfilled; Severus Snape was gone.
Deep within the Hogwarts Castle, a gust of wind swept throughout the dungeons and the Slytherin common room, extinguishing what few candles still burned. Up in the Great Hall, the final emerald from the broken Slytherin hourglass fell to the floor. The Half-Blood Prince . . . was home.
*Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, pg 655.
**Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, pg 658.
~ A big note of thanks to my lovely beta, notreallyblonde44, who re-read and re-read this entry more than a dozen times! (Well, more like four, but you get the message!) ~
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