What the Thunder Said
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, places, and creations belong to the revered Ms. Rowling. The rest is mine.
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituariesOr in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms.
Chapter One: The Calm Before the Storm
Contrary to popular belief, Severus Snape did not spend his summer holidays locked away in the dank dungeons of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Neither did he consume small infants for breakfast or brew mysterious poisons or ravish village virgins in his free time. Dully enough, in the realm of All Things Snape, Hogwarts rumor was generally wildly unfounded.
However, to some, the truth would seem far more outrageous than mere whispered suppositions. Severus was on holiday.
Of course, it was all by order of the Headmaster. Eyes twinkling—and a bit threatening—he had all but packed his Potion Master's suitcases. When Albus struck upon something he liked, he snatched the idea and ran.
Albus had a cousin—daughter of his mother's sister, a woman of the Braeman side of the family—who owned a small cottage in America. There was a strange sort of history to the cottage, one that Severus was largely uninterested in and one that Albus was all too happy to explain. At length.
The house served its purpose beautifully, all other things aside. The cousin was half-Muggle, and her discarded cabin sat on a lonely island in the Puget Sound. It was too cold for swimming; this did not bother Severus at all, luckily, as he had little inclination to swim in the first place. From the kitchen window he could look out over the evergreens, study the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and watch the blue-grey water. A few discreet flicks of the wand, and the dusty cottage had been transformed into a perfectly comfortable sanctuary.
For the Headmaster—whose silvery head occasionally appeared in Severus's fireplace—Snape was all frowns and curses. ("How do you expect me to get anything done in this godforsaken wilderness?" he had recently snapped. Albus had giggled. "I don't," he quipped, and disappeared back into the flames with a small pop.) However, most secretly, Severus Snape was adoring his vacation.
Albus, as usual, had been right. Even Severus knew this. The last year had been even worse than usual; one horror after another, a series of rapid-fire flights in and out of the Dark Lord's grasp. Severus still could not decide if he was pleased or horrified that, after those years of distrust and wariness, he had once again been selected as a confidant—a favorite right-hand, a beloved—of Voldemort's.
There were some things that Severus would never speak of, not even to Albus.
He had told Voldemort the truth about this vacation: that Albus had required it. And frankly, beyond Hogwart's walls, Severus was of little use to the Dark Lord. So, for two blissful months, the Dark Mark had been quiet.
For that alone, Severus was once again indebted to his Headmaster. He was cherishing his weeks of cloistered peace, and trying to forget that the end of the summer would all too soon be upon him.
He had discovered, locked away in one of Cousin Isabella's closets, an intriguing old record player. He was not one usually taken with Muggle contraptions—with the acute exception of Muggle literature—but this was something entirely different.
Now, in the second week of August, under the warm northwest sun, Severus sat on his sun-bleached deck in an old wooden rocking chair. The record player, propped on the windowsill, sent out a faint murmur of quiet Vivaldi.
His students—some of them probably, at that very moment, measuring the inches in their assigned scrolls on Veritaserum—would not have recognized him at that moment. Snape, in faded blue jeans? Silky hair, tied neatly back from his face? The faint glow of health beginning in his cheeks?
T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land—well worn, Snape's copy—was open on his lap. He shut the book decisively; it did not do to remind himself, yet again, of the despairing soul. He had time enough for that when he donned those achingly heavy robes, and fell back into the frightening persona he was losing himself in, and returned to the double life.
He closed his black eyes, folded his hands over his flat stomach, and gently set to rocking in that old rocking chair, worn smooth by those who had come before. Severus Snape was clinging with all his might to his fleeting empyrean.
He returned from his evening walk to find a head in his hearth.
Albus: "Severus. You look well."
There was an edge to his voice that Severus did not like. At all. He shrugged out of his Muggle jacket and sat down heavily beside the fireplace; this was not the gleeful greeting that had met him a previous visits. Besides, a bit of quick math revealed the obvious; Albus was generally not given to catching up on correspondence at three in the morning. That annoying pink nightcap was still stuffed over wild white hair.
Dumbledore heaved a heavy sigh, and for a moment, the Headmaster looked older than ever, than he had ever seemed to Severus. "I hate to cut your vacation short, Severus. I've seen what a change it's brought in you. I—"
Severus cut him off with a sharp wave of his hand. He rose, and turned away from the fire. "Give me a moment to collect my things and secure the cottage. I will Apparate back in ten minutes. Expect me in your office in fifteen."
There was a brief sigh, and then the telltale pop. Severus stood for a moment, hands shaking. He closed his eyes wearily. He spent a strange, solitary moment in the middle of the room, eyes closed, shutting out the warmth and remaining light.
Snape's features then molded once again into hard, icy lines he had taken on for so very long. He dug his robes out of the closet—dark, voluminous things, they were—and set to work.
His brief stay in paradise was over, and it was time to return to Hogwarts: his home and his prison, his saving grace and his eventual doom. His decayed hole among the mountains.
He locked the record player back in Isabella's dusty closet, erased any sign of his passing, and promptly disappeared.
In later times, as he lay awake in the dark and cold and gloom, he would convince himself that the brief Elysium was but a dream. It was easier, that way, to return to the sad fragments of a broken life. For those brief weeks, though, it had been rather pleasant imagining himself whole.
A/N: More to follow! I know this is a rather short beginning, and I realize that there is very little meat or character delving going on here. More to follow, I promise!
Briefly, the inspiration for the title is from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. "What the Thunder Said" is the last of the five parts of this poem. The "decaying hold among the mountains" reference is from here as well. Excellent poem, magnificent poet.