Author: hikaru / _regarde
Archive: Please ask permission.
Feedback: If you so desire.
Rating: PG-13 for some dark imagery, but not much
Disclaimer: They're all J. K. Rowling's, and I've got the feeling that she'd have my head for this.
Summary: After two days of body-switched horror, Snape is returned to his own body and goes out to the beach to think, read, and dream in metaphors. AU.
Notes: Written for the_blank_slate, a multi-fandom RPG where characters are mystically transported to a desert island that has some crazy tendencies of its own. Random items appear of personal significance, the food never runs out in the kitchen, dinosaurs run around part of the island, and strange events like bodyswapping happen every so often. For the past two days, Snape has been stuck inside the body of Sirius Black, an all too surreal and traumatic experience. Back in his own body, he realises that maybe, just for a moment, he is glad to be himself for once, even if he is stuck with some of Sirius' leftover mannerisms, quirks, and perhaps even thoughts. There's so much more to this little ficlet than that, but it's hard to explain the game's whole canon and Snape's backstory there in this little space. If you're interested in what the dream meant, just let me know and I'll explain it. (The 'certain blonde boy' is not Draco.)
Severus has his body back and, for the first time in a very long time, he can honestly say that he is happy.
This is, of course, not to be confused with the average man's definition of 'happy.' For Severus, it means that he can forget, even for the briefest of seconds, that he is a man that should be dead a thousand times over. It means that he is comfortable in his skin; sallow hue, scars, Dark Mark, and all. It means that the first thought when he wakes and the last thought before he drifts off into sleep is not of how he will die, how he has failed, how he is just a washed up old coward who doesn't know what he believes in.
Here, on the island, he knows nothing, has sway over nothing, and believes in nothing.
But he has something.
It shines in the back of his skull, flickering and a little bit hard to discern. It says hope, and, sometimes, fear, and, more often than not, begin again.
Not surprisingly, this new calm that is slowly taking over his body terrifies him. He does not know peace or complacency; all he knows about this feeling is that it only means him harm. When he gets lazy, when he lets the fuzzy feeling overwhelm the more prickly parts of his brain, when he lets heart and soul triumph over rationality -- bad things happen. People get hurt, secrets get broken, lives get changed. People die. He doesn't want that burden, not here.
Tonight, he takes his blanket and the book on Poe's works (that he is reading for the fourth time now, a book that he will never admit that he is re-reading to have a better grasp of the material to debate it with a certain blonde boy who wriggles into every last vestige of his personal space) and he treks to the beach, to the tiny little cove where there is a bay which may or may not house a giant squid.
He stretches the blanket out on the sand and rests his tired bones on it, limbs gangly and sprawling while still managing not to take up any more room on the sheet than strictly necessary. In this freedom of night, he bends down, slowly and almost reverently undoing the series of tiny buttons and hooks and laces that hold his boots on, slipping the antiquated things from his feet and setting them aside. His fingers fly to the cuffs of his shirt; after a furtive glance to ensure that no one is watching to see this momentary weakness, he unbuttons them, meticulously rolling up his sleeves. The fingers catch next a button at the throat, then another, loosening the heavy fabric and allowing him room to breathe, even if it is in complete solitude.
There is a time and a place for everything, as the old adage goes.
With a sigh, the exhalation of tension and frustration and something vague in the back of his head that he can't quite define, he settles onto the sheet, on his stomach, and opens the book before him.
He reads by the seemingly ceaseless moonlight, marking up passages with a borrowed pen, making his own tiny notes in the margins. He reads until his tired eyes give out, until his mind swims with hearts under floorboards, ravens, a pendulum, a hideous mask of death.
He closes the book after committing his stopping passage to memory, setting it aside on the corner of the bed sheet, before nestling his head atop his arms and slowly drifting off to sleep under the pale moonlight, next to the gentle lap of waves.
Severus Snape dreams tonight, and for the first time in ages, it is not of the deaths he has caused, it is not of rotting corpses being floated before his sight, it is not of bowing oneself before a Dark Lord who ignores his heritage as much as Severus ignores his own.
Tonight, his dream is vague, but it does not speak of death. It is smoke and mirrors, a vision of a woman with a slow curve to her body, a fleeting glimpse of a man and a dog in one, of a shock of dark hair and the open air and sky. This dream is not his own, and it is slowly gone, pushed out by Severus' own subconscious. It is replaced with the glint of eyes in the darkness,with a flash of dark skin and a broad form, and then, a vision of something longer and more concrete. A willowy figure in shadows, speaking of mistakes past and future, speaking words that he does not want to hear, is not capable of understanding.
He wakes with a start, panting and confused and perhaps even aching a bit to understand what he knows he cannot. He sits up abruptly, bending sharply, and bowing his head between his knees. Severus breathes low, trying to force everything back to normal. Heart rate, breathing, feeling.
He can deal with the dreams of death. He has had them for over twenty years now. He understands the corpses and the murders and the visits from those long dead when he closes his eyes; he knows that his long list of sins has damned him to revisit his atrocities for the rest of his life.
He cannot deal with this new dream. He does not know what it means (even if he does), and he cannot bring himself to guess (even if he doesn't need to). If he knows (admits) what the dream means, then he may be forced to act, to show his cards, which he will not. He is too restrained, too repressed, too obsessed with self-control to do that.
So he simply sits, fingers laced behind his neck, and breathes. That's all he can do for now.