Title: What Was, and What Always Will Be
Author: hikaru / _regarde
Archive: Please ask permission.
Feedback: If you so desire.
Rating: R for graphic violence, language, talk of suicide.
Characters: Severus Snape, Libitina Snape (mother), Priamos Snape (father), an unauthorized usage of Lucius Malfoy, and a random nameless Death Eater lackey.
Disclaimer: They're all J. K. Rowling's, and I've got the feeling that she'd have my head for this.
Summary: Severus Snape through the ages.
Notes: Written for Academie, a Harry Potter RPG where I play Snape. The game is AU, in the respect that it takes place in a comtemporary universe without magic. We have incorporated the major bits of the new canon that came along with HBP, and thusly, this could be considered to have spoilers for HBP. What happens at the end of HBP on the grounds of Hogwarts has instead happened at a party at the home of Mandy Brocklehurst. Other details have been changed but the major outcomes of HBP remain true for this universe. Ficlet written for the prompt "cobblestone walkways." Additionally, I'd like to note that I have chosen to not rework Snape's history, parentage, etc., in light of what we've learned in HBP. I'd already established Snape's relationship with his family, his heritage, social status, etc. in Academie and so it didn't make sense to suddenly change everything. This is... well, much darker and more violent than I anticipated it being, but once I started writing, it wouldn't stop coming. It is also much longer than what could be considered in any way a drabble, but it sort of took on a life of its own.
Word Length: 2500 or thereabouts. *looks embarrassed*
Severus Snape, age six-and-a-half, toddles on after his mother. "Come on now, Severus, we mustn't be late." She clutches his hand, sticky with candy and grime and the mess that all small children invariably work their way into. "Your father will be quite upset if we're not home before he returns."
"Yes, mama," he says, eyes shining, bright. Innocent. He beams up at her and squeezes her hand. Severus must run to keep up with her, but he doesn't want to make mama upset. Seeing his mother upset is the worst thing in the world to this little boy, who cannot imagine life being anything other than this.
Mother and son advance down the long, winding walkway, ancient stones sailing beneath their feet. "Good boy," she says, glancing down at her son as they step up onto the doorstep. A hand -- pale and trembling -- pulls an old key from within the depths of a sleek black purse, and soon, they are inside. They are safe.
* * *
Severus Snape, age nine, crouches in the corner of the sitting room, behind his mother. He clings to the folds of her dress, stiff and smelling of cheap perfume, wine, and smoke. His father towers over the two, yelling, screaming, shoving. Severus whimpers and closes his eyes, clamping his hands over his ears. If he cannot hear his father, if he cannot hear the vile words and hatred that the man spews, then perhaps it is not happening. Perhaps his world isn't slowly being destroyed.
"Filthy tramp," the man bellows, clutching at the front of his wife's dress, shaking her. Severus bites down on his lip, trying to hold back either a scream or tears; he wasn't sure which. He knows that either way, he was doomed.
"Filthy tramp," Snape the elder shouts again. His hand rears back, striking his wife across the cheek. She recoils, screams, her hands flying up to her cheek. Severus does not know what his mother has done to deserve this, and as she doubles over, he loses her grip on her dress and tumbles backwards a few steps. He glances up and meets the burning eyes of Priamos Snape.
* * *
Severus Snape, age eleven, tugs a hefty wooden trunk behind him, out the door of his family home. It wobbles as it goes over the doorstep, and makes awful clattering sounds as it bounces and bounds over the cobblestones that lead to the imposing black car at the end of the walkway. His father stands at the car, arms angrily folded across his chest.
"Hurry up, boy," he shouts, brows furrowing in anger. "If we're late, I'm leaving you at King's Cross regardless." He stalks to the car and wrenches the back door open, not glancing away from his son for an instant. Severus falters, nearly tripping backwards over his too-long cloak, but rights himself quickly. He takes a deep breath before continuing; the air smells of the sea, of freedom. His father really would leave him at the train station, leave him to fend for himself.
From a window on the second floor, Libitina Snape presses a pale hand to a grimy windowpane. Her son is leaving her, leaving her at the mercy of her ruthless husband. She is lucky that she knows what day it is, lucky that she knows that it is Severus pulling the trunk down the walkway, lucky that she remembers her name. The boy looks up at her, and their eyes meet. She smiles, wiggles her fingers weakly. Her son returns the smile, pausing only for a second to acknowledge her before he continues tugging on the trunk.
* * *
Severus Snape, age sixteen, returns home for what he anticipated to be the last time. The day prior, he received a terse telegram from his father. "Your mother deceased. Funeral in two days." He is taller now, stronger, faster, smarter. More dangerous. He comes alone; he does not want anyone to see this. Severus will either completely crumble, or he will kill his father. He is not sure yet as he advances up the walkway to his home.
He does not bother to knock; he shoves the door open and stalks into the foyer. His father is, as anticipated, nowhere to be found. Severus moves through the house, slamming doors, advancing through rooms, pounding up the stairs, until he arrives. Third room on the right, second floor. He shoulders the door open roughly; it creaks and groans beneath his pressure. The door, after all, has rarely been opened; the last time it was opened was to remove his mother's cold body. The room is musty; it reeks of mould, of sweat, of urine, of death. A rickety bed sits in the corner, the sheets still wrinkled and twisted from his mother's last moments here in this world.
He closes his eyes. He doesn't want to see anymore. Here, in the middle of his mother's own prison, her personal hell, Severus sinks to his knees, buries his face in his hands. Choking back the sob that has been lodged in his throat since he was nine years old, he lets out a scream, a loud, guttural sound that should not come from a mere boy. He doubles over, gasping for breath, pounding at the floor, screaming and cursing and thrashing until his throat is raw, until his fists are bleeding. Today, Severus Snape crumbles.
* * *
Severus Snape, age eighteen, pulls a handgun from its hiding place beneath his jacket and takes aim. "Good, Severus," hisses his blonde friend, one hand on the darker boy's shoulder, possessively. "Pull the trigger." The hiss continues in Severus' ear, a serpent's hiss. The devil's tongue guides him. "Show the bastard that he should never anger the Dark Lord."
"Yes, Lucius," he whispers.
He pulls the trigger, and the body -- nameless; now faceless -- tumbles down, down, down. The brick red stones are splashed with blood, with gore. Severus closes his eyes, but part of him dies just the same.
* * *
Severus Snape, age twenty-one, snatches the handgun from its place in his desk drawer, cocks it, and swiftly swings his hand up to place the cold metal at his temple. He finds it fitting that he is alone, at the end of it all. His hand shakes almost imperceptibly as he closes his eyes and bites on his lower lip. This is it. It will all be over now.
The door opens. "Goddamnit, didn't I say I wasn't to be disturbed?" He doesn't open his eyes, but resists the temptation to pull the trigger straight away.
"Severus." The serpent's voice, it haunts him. "Put it down." He is arrogant, condescending. He doesn't really want to spare Severus his life; he just wants to have another means of humiliating his little protégé. Lucius tilts his head, hands folded in front of him, and coolly regards Severus.
His eyes fly open at this intrusion, unshed tears threatening to fall. "Everything I have ever loved is gone!" His voice is hoarse, wild with fury and anger and desperation. The gun hand shakes more violently now, and he stares at Lucius imploringly. "Everything has been taken from me! I will not let the Dark Lord take this from me!" He waves the gun wildly, taking it away from his own temple and waving at Lucius with it. "I would die first."
"Severus." The voice, fairly bursting with disdain. "Severus, I am here."
"You have never loved me. Do not lie to me. All you have ever done is lie to me, you son of a bitch." The gun is back at his temple now.
"Severus." A step forward. Severus twitches involuntarily as a perfect, pale hand extends itself in front of him. "If you end it now, you will never be able to rise above that which he has taken from you."
He closes his eyes again, shudders, and drops the gun in Lucius' outstretched hand. Slowly, his hands fly to his face, covering his red eyes, his shocked appearance, his mortification. "Get out," he mumbles through his hands.
He is still broken. There is no fixing him. He is lost.
* * *
Severus Snape, age thirty-seven, advances down an ancient trail of cobblestones. Weeds shoot up from between the cracks; they've not been cared for in ages. There is no one to care for them now. He reaches the door, an old, hulking, imposing piece of wood. Fishing in his pocket, trying not to appear frantic, he pulls out a key and jams it into the lock. Thirty years of memories slam into his skull as he steps past the threshold.
"We mustn't be late."
"Filthy tramp! Slut! Good for nothing whore!"
"You killed her, goddamnit. You killed her!"
"If it pleases the Dark Lord, then it shall be done."
"Everything I have ever loved is gone!"
He gasps, a sharp intake. "This is too much," he whispers, slumping up against the closed door.
He does not have much time. He closes his eyes for a second, gaining his focus, his determination, and then stands straight. Severus empties his pockets, throwing a few folded up pieces of currency onto the small table adjacent to the door, and setting his keys atop them. He slides off the suit jacket, tucking it under his arm, as he walks briskly down the hallway, into the kitchen.
He wads up the jacket and tosses it in the trash bin, then strips off his shirt, throwing it in after the jacket. So much blood. So much evidence. He couldn't wear it, couldn't bear it any longer. He had too many bloody reminders, both literal and figurative. He stands, clad now in just an undershirt and his trousers, and stops to think, to replay the events in his head for the millionth time over.
Severus curses, slams his fist on the counter, before yanking open drawers at random, rummaging through years and years worth of clutter. Though his father no longer lives here -- indeed, Severus doesn't even know if his father is still alive or not -- Severus has made sure that the house has been kept in some semblance of order. It is, at least, still standing, which is all he asked. When the house came down, it would be by Severus' own hands. He wanted to destroy it, as it destroyed him.
Finally, his hands close around a pair of scissors. They were old, likely dull, but they were all he had. He stalks back out of the kitchen, through the dining room, to the sitting room, where he pauses at a mirror hanging in the corner. He remembers his mother holding him up to see in the mirror once; she balanced him on her hip as she fixed her hair, reapplied her lipstick. He shakes his head violently, resisting the urge to rip the mirror from the wall, to tear the house down right now and bury himself within the ruins.
Severus studies his own weathered face in the mirror. He looks like hell. Swallowing glumly, he raises the scissors in his right hand, seizing a chunk of his limp black hair with his left. And he cuts. He cuts like a madman, as if by cutting off this hair, that he could cut out his past, his faults, his transgressions.
Minutes go by and he continues to cut away at his outward appearance, centimetre by centimetre. He has never had short hair. He always despised it, and yet here he was. "Long haired, greasy, big nose, morbid looking" made him much too easy to identify. The nose, which he ran a long finger down, could never change, but he could at least be rid of the hair, he could be someone other than who they were looking for.
Satisfied, he lets the scissors clatter to the floor. He grimaces at his newly-shorn reflection in the mirror, carding his fingers through the uneven, short bristles of hair that remained. That would do for now. He purses his lips and pivots on his heel, bounding up the stairs. If his help had come through for him, then some of his belongings should be stashed upstairs.
Severus follows a familiar path. Third room on the right, second floor. He shoves the door open violently, doesn't even pause to notice that the room still reeks of death, of despair. There are boxes, bags, suitcases. Everything is here as it should be. He sighs in relief, then drops to his knees to peel open a suitcase, already packed. Rifling through the contents, he nods in approval; sometimes, his fellow Knights could do things right. Severus plucks a shirt -- deep purple; he was not yet prepared to make the transition away from black so abruptly -- from the top of the pile and slips his arms into it. He doesn't bother with buttons, with the cuffs. He will care about looking put-together when he can be sure that he is safe.
Severus zips the small suitcase back together and snatches it up, leaving the room in a hurry. He bounds back down the stairs and skids to a halt in the foyer to grab his money and his keys.
He walks out of the house and doesn't look back.
* * *
Severus Snape, age thirty-seven, has one last stop to make before he leaves behind everything he has ever known. There is a car waiting for him at the other end of the house, but he needs to do just one last thing before it is all over. Down another long pathway he trots, old bricks slipping away beneath his feet, Severus stumbles wildly, until he reaches the end. A patch of grass, and a small, unobtrusive slab of concrete.
Libitina Snape. Wife, mother.
He drops the suitcase and falls to his knees in front of the gravestone. "Mum," he whispers, running his fingertips overtop of the letters. The wind picks up and he shivers. "Mum," he repeats, closing his eyes and bowing his head. "I'm sorry." His voice gets lost in the wind, picked up and ripped away from him. The air smells of salt and sea, but all Severus can smell now is death.
He sits, immobilized, until he is chilled to the bone. "Mum, I'm sorry." The words stick in his throat, the unshed tears stick in his eyes, and he swallows roughly, pushing it all back down.
There are footsteps advancing behind him now, and he knows that it is time to go. "I told you to wait at the car," he says.
"It is time to go, sir. He will be expecting you soon."
"Go back to the car," he rasps, not even bothering to look up. "Take my suitcase and go back to the goddamned car."
"Yes, sir." He hears the footsteps echo off of the stones, and he is alone once more.
He sits in silence for a while longer, his trousers becoming wet with mud and dew. "I don't know if I'll be back, mum. Ever." He sighs and rights himself, rubbing angrily at his eyes with the heels of his hands. "I suspect I may see you soon." He stands, wiping at the dirt on his trousers, not looking down at the gravestone again.
"Goodbye, mum," he says, then pivots on his heel and walks away.