A Spark in Shadows Found
Chapter 1: Revelations Among Enemies
Pain. Pain in his heart, blood in his mouth. It hurt so much. It burned.
Severus Snape, Sixth Year Slytherin, sat in his favorite spot next to the lake and shivered.
He was relieved to be back at Hogwarts, away from his family. Away from his father, whose best state was absent and neglectful. The only times he ever saw the man were when Tobias came home drunk, or worse, angry at the enforced sobriety that occurred when the money was out. Drunk, the old man might stagger around, shout a few things before stumbling into an alcohol induced stupor. Drinking, or forced to be sober, there were be fights. Screaming matches if he was lucky. Thrown bottles and the occasional beating if he wasn't. And with money running low, there'd been a lot more fights this summer, and a lot more beatings.
And he hadn't even had Lily to turn to. She'd never forgiven him for his slip during O.W.L.s. He'd even sent around a note over the Summer, but she'd never answered him, and he'd never had the nerve to look for her at the park or at her house.
He shivered again, dragging his thin cloak around his skinny shoulders. Lily didn't understand. How could she? She had a family who loved her, friends who supported her. At Hogwarts, she was surrounded by people who liked her, cared about her. She was respected and admired. In her home, there was always enough food to eat, and plenty of money for clean new clothes and supplies. And while Petunia might be abrasive, at least Lily's parents loved and supported her. And Petunia, for all her acidic words and foul temper, had nothing on Tobias.
And even less on Eileen.
Severus shuddered then, burying his face in his arms as he breathed deep. He couldn't think of his mother. He couldn't. He couldn't remember…
"Well look who it is, Prongs. I do believe it's Snivellous. And living up to his name, too, I think." The hateful voice brought his head up with a jerk.
Four figures stood a few feet away, and Severus felt his chest burn at the sight of them. James Potter, the Gryffindor Golden Boy, with his friends. Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. Black was eyeing him with a malicious grin, his wand already out. Lupin looked vaguely uncomfortable, but Severus dismissed that. It didn't matter. No matter how 'uncomfortable' Lupin got, he'd never go against his friends. Pettigrew looked...excited. Severus felt his lip curl. Then, as quickly as it had come, his scorn faded.
He couldn't deal with this. He was still recovering. He swallowed, feeling the burning inside him, the fire that his instinctive hatred fueled. Normally he had more time, more control…
He forced himself to stand, to drop the mask of indifferent rage over his features. "What do you want, Black?"
"Why should you care, Snivellous?"
The familiar despised nickname sent sparks through him. "Don't...call...me...that." He was lucky his voice had already broken and resettled into it's deep baritone, or he might have been humiliated by the cracking.
"And what would you do if I did? Drip grease on my robes?" Black sneered. "It's obvious you don't take care of yours, Snivelly. And here I thought that hearing Evans criticize you might do something..."
"Shut up. You know nothing of what you speak." Severus clenched his cloak around him. He knew if he went for his wand that things would end badly, but he itched to do so anyway.
Cast the spells. Use the fire. Burn.
No. No. Not here...not now. As satisfying as it might be to level his wand at Potter and Black and curse them into oblivion, he was outnumbered four to one. Bad odds even for a skilled duelist. Besides...he knew the consequences. He'd read the books after his mother was done with him, and he knew what using spells of hatred and rage would do. A week from now, it might not be so bad, but he could still feel the fire under his breastbone, burning in his gut. It was too soon. Especially if he was cursed back, which he could see Black was itching to do.
Black snorted. "Sure. Snivelly. I guess even your parents would know better than to waste money on robes for you to get all greasy."
Out of the corner of his eye, Severus saw Lupin flinch. Of course, Lupin would feel the sting of Black's words. His clothing was only marginally better than Severus's own.
Severus bit the inside of his cheek. "I am warning you, Black..." What he would do, he had absolutely no idea, but still...if Black didn't stop harassing him soon, he wasn't sure he could hold back.
"Warning me? What, planning to curse me, Snivellous?" Black's tone went from mocking to dangerous in the blink of an eye as he leveled his wand in Severus's direction. "Go on then, Snake. Show me what sort of Dark curses you and your fellow Slytherins have learned over the summer. Show me just how Dark you are, Snapey."
It was the last straw. His control broke, and as the fire roared up he clenched his fists tight, away from his wand, and screamed. "I DID NOT WANT TO BE DARK!" The shriek ripped it's way out of his vocal chords, so violent it felt like it might have physically torn his throat with it's passing.
The Marauders flinched, shock on their faces, but he was already lost. His control was too weak, and it was too soon. He had to find a vent, and if he could not curse them, there had to be another way.
If it came down to an exchange of spells, someone would die this time. And for all his fury, he didn't want that.
"I didn't want to be Dark!" He screamed the words again, and tore his cloak from his shoulders, heedless of the chill September air. "I didn't...want...this!"
He snatched his wand from it's holster and flung it away before he could do something he'd regret, or Black could curse him, then wrenched his shirt free of his trousers with a force that tore the cloth. "This, Black! This is my legacy! A father who drinks away the money until I CANNOT AFFORD new clothing, never mind if the robes and clothes I wear are gray with age and too short and patched and disgusting."
"And THIS..." He wrenched the shirt higher still, to reveal the wounds on his torso. Bruises, from his father's last beating. And the marks his mother had left. "This...I never wanted this...but it is the only legacy I will ever get from my Mother. Only her hatred, Black, ingrained into my flesh. Like my father's. Like yours."
He released his shirt, to stand shuddering before his tormentors, as the cool air mingled in his blood with the fire left behind. Potter, Black and Lupin looked stunned, and he felt a thrill of vicious pleasure at having silenced them for once, even if this wasn't the method he would have chosen in other circumstances.
He met Black's eyes, then Potter's, too exhausted with his struggle to bother to hide his emotions. "You call me Dark? But I have never...I have never killed. And I never had a choice. Ask, Black. Ask those you know, what it means, to endure Tenebris Inferno. And when you know, perhaps you will understand why I say this..." His gaze flickered over the group. "I was not ignorant last year, when I followed the path you dared me to take under the full moon. I only wish that Potter had indeed let Lupin have me."
"What!?" Lupin jerked, startled, staring at his friends. "Siri...what's he talking about?"
"He dared me to follow you on a full moon night, beneath the Whomping Willow. I already knew what you were. It's not that hard to figure out." Severus regarded the werewolf with weary eyes. The world was beginning to spin strangely, and the fire was consuming him from the inside out. "I went. Potter discovered what I was about, what he had done, and came after me. He brought me to safety. Dumbledore awarded him points for saving me, as if the Life Debt was not enough, and made certain I would not speak of it. Black was given detention for being out of bounds, but they couldn't do more, not without exposing you. So they didn't." He bared his teeth in a snarl, then spun around, intending to get his wand and return to his dorm. Let them hex him in the back, if they were such cowards.
Instead, the world spun sideways and turned grey, like the aftermath of a jinxed broom ride. Severus stumbled, and felt the world tilt, the ground sliding out from under him, as if the grass had turned to ice.
He fell, and the gray turned to darkness, which enfolded him in burning night.
Remus Lupin didn't know what to make of everything. He hadn't liked it when Sirius had started baiting Severus, but it was only words.
Or, it had been only words, until Snape had exploded, losing his temper and his composure in a frightening display that Remus had never witnessed before and hoped he'd never see again. Snape looked honestly insane.
Then the Slytherin Sixth Year raised his ragged shirt, and they all saw the livid bruises, black and purple against the fair skin. That would have been bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the livid red marks, like burns, that traced the skinny torso. Burns that looked like...Remus swallowed hard. Not looked like...they were rune markings, like a ritual, and his sensitive nose told him they were burns, and recent. More recent even than the bruises which had not yet faded to green and yellow.
He almost asked, but then Snape mentioned the full moon, and his name, and he went cold. He'd never heard… Sirius had sent Snape to him on a full moon? His stomach rolled, making him nauseous. He thought he might be sick. James looked a little pale too. He wondered whether it was the idea that he might have killed someone, or that Snape sounded so...certain. The Slytherin boy actually sounded as if he'd prefer death by werewolf to his life. That thought was enough to make his stomach churn violently, and he almost lost the contents of his stomach.
Then Snape turned, eyes dead and his frame shaking, turned away, turned his back, as if he no longer cared that his enemies were there. Then he stumbled, and fell.
Remus was moving before he'd even properly registered everything. He rarely made use of his wolf-given speed and agility, but he was moving even before he realized that he'd seen Severus's knees buckle. He caught the Slytherin as he crumpled and followed him down. Snape was thinner and lighter than he'd looked, and that was saying something, given that the Slytherin looked one step shy of emaciated.
He was shaking too. Remus looked up at the other three, who were still staring at Snape's limp form. "Siri...get me his cloak. He's freezing."
How long has he been out here? The Welcome Feast had been the night before, but still...had Snape been outside the whole day? Last night?
For once, Sirius didn't make any smart remarks. He just bent, picked up the ragged gray cloak and brought it over. James followed, with Peter mincing along behind him. All of them looked as stunned as Remus felt.
Remus wrapped the cloak around Severus's shoulders. Then on a second thought, he unclasped his own and bundled it over the other. Severus had always been pale, but now he looked downright clammy. Ashen. Sweat beaded over his brow, in spite of his shivering.
"Do you think…?" James frowned, then broke off.
"Do I think he meant what he said?" Lupin raised his amber eyes. "Yes. I think he meant everything. I just don't think we were meant to hear it." Anger kindled in him then, an anger that started with the knowledge that Sirius had deliberately exposed his secret to in an effort to scare Snape, and swelled to encompass all his shame at watching Severus be taunted, and all his own hidden humiliation at being poor, and lonely, and too smart for his own good, to say nothing of his technical status as a Dark Creature. "I don't think he meant to say that to us, but I'm certain we deserved it."
Sirius winced. "It's just...it's just Snivell..."
"It's just?" Remus snapped his head toward the Black scion. "Like I'm 'just' a werewolf, a beast? Like you're 'just' the son of a Dark family? Is there anything that's 'just' about this situation? Look at him, Sirius! Look!" He drew the cloaks back. "I can smell the age of his clothes, and he isn't lying about them. And I can smell the blood of his bruises and the burns of those marks on his body. All this time...all this time you've preyed on him...what have you done? Did you ever stop to look at your victim? Or was the fact that he was Slytherin all you ever saw?" He snorted. "That, and his friendship with Lily, which James envied."
James winced. "I..."
"Enough. I heard you last year. You hexed him just because he exists, you said." Remus dropped his gaze as he re-covered the slender form. "Congratulations. You aren't the only ones to be his torturers." He scowled. "I suppose I should be relieved that my Sorting into Gryffindor kept you from being mine as well."
That got a reaction. Both James and Sirius flinched back. "Moony, old man...we'd never..."
"If that were true, then you wouldn't have with him, either." Remus pinned both boys with his stare. "I've never said anything, because you befriended me, after…after you found out about my condition. I didn't want to fight with you. But still...this..."
He might have said more, but Snape groaned in his arms, shaking like a leaf as he twisted. "Let...go..."
"Sorry. I can't, old fellow." Remus kept his voice as quiet and soothing as he could. "You've had a bad fall…Severus." He hoped that using the other boy's given name might soothe him. The Marauders hardly ever used it, so there was a chance Severus wouldn't know who was holding him. He freed one hand and ran it over Snape's face. "You're burning up man."
Snape shuddered, twisted. "Burning… the black fire...help me...help me please."
Well, that clinched it. He definitely didn't know who had him. In fact, he sounded downright delirious. "I'll help you. We'll get you to Madam Pomfrey..."
"No!" Severus jerked, and might have dislodged Remus's grip if he'd been stronger. "No...she can't...you know she can't...she'll tell...Headmaster...he'll never..." Severus collapsed again, shaking with strain and anguish. "Never understand...thinks I'm...like them…."
"All right. Fine. I won't take you to Madam Pomfrey." Remus considered his options, then bundled the cloaks tighter. He summoned Snape's wand with a wordless spell, then stuck it in his belt and wrapped his arms around the other youth again. "Give me a hand, James." With Potter's help, he managed to get to a position where he could stand, Severus's long frame draped awkwardly in his arms. "Let's get him to the private prefect rooms. Then we can...well, we can send an owl, or something." Not that he had any intention of sending an owl. He had no idea who Severus might trust to see him like this. And no desire to explain himself to the Slytherins, who were the only ones he'd dare contact to help. Whatever James and Sirius might say, Slytherins looked out for their own...more or less.
He just hoped Snape wouldn't hex him too badly when he came to. Even if he did deserve it.
Author's Note: I blame the birth of this story on a summer flu bug. But it insisted that it was going to stick around, to the point that I woke myself up trying to write the chapters in my head, so...on we go!
Next up...Remus gives his friends what for, Sirius asks some questions, and it begins to sink in that the world isn't as black and white as they thought...