Secret, Black, and Midnight

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Disclaimer: All characters within belong to JKR. I am not JKR. I am the Rabbit of Iron. Therefore, by simple logic, these characters are not mine. Savvy? Title quote comes from Macbeth, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.

Author's Notes: I decided to have Severus playing the piano. I can just see him sitting there playing this lovely sonata on the piano, although it should be played on a harpsichord. It just kind of suits him.

Thanks go to Xani, who beta'd this for me, and encouraged me to write it. Help! She's turning me into a Snape obsessive!

This is set directly after 'Goblet of Fire', after Snape leaves the infirmary to do as Dumbledore has told him.

I decided to do a proper characterisation of Snape, following the out of character way I used him in "Snape's Favourite Student". It took me some time to work out his thoughts, but I feel that it worked. See for yourself.

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Soon I must go. I, Severus Snape, must go crawling to Lord Voldemort and attempt to win his confidence. I know I must, but for now I play my piano. It is one of my passions, along with my potions. The precise black and white of the keys against the deep brown wood. The regular note procession calms my ire, gives me space. Teaching is a hard job, and I need my release.

This sonata, by Scarlatti, is one of my favourites. It begins simply, a repetition in one hand, rising up to the more complicated falling arpeggios. My fingers move swiftly through the familiar patterns. This piece is too well known; my mind wanders. I worry about my future, and I know I'm scared of the task ahead of me.

I'm a teacher, not a hero. I know how to control a class and brew potions. How will that help me against Lord Voldemort? He's reborn, gathering his followers and regaining his strength. The most powerful Dark wizard in the world, and I've got to go and spy on him for Dumbledore. And not get caught. He's bound to be suspicious of me. He'll stare at me with those piercing eyes, trying to see into my soul. I'm terrified that he'll know that I'm lying.

My fingers falter, and I return my thoughts to my playing. Mordents flicker upward in sequence, calming my racing heart. I don't want to go to Voldemort, but I will.

Maybe it's out of some sense of loyalty to Dumbledore. He saved me from Azkaban all those years ago, helped me turn informer on the rest of the Death Eaters. I was afraid then, and it seemed that it was the best way. It was dangerous, but preferable to rotting in Azkaban, like that scoundrel Sirius Black. I know he wasn't a Death Eater, and I didn't think he would have had any connection to Voldemort, but I didn't say anything. Should I have spoken up, or would it not have helped? I suppose I convinced myself that he did do it, as there was no contradictory evidence.

He deserved twelve years in that hellhole. He and his little clique made my years as a student here at Hogwarts utterly miserable. I was regularly the butt of their little schoolboy gags, through no reason that I could see. I was different from them, I came from a family of Dark wizards, and for this was I punished. Such is the set up of this school that it is very difficult, nigh on impossible, to pull yourself out of the person that other people stereotype you as. I was a Slytherin, so naturally I was loathed.

It is unfair. Unfair on me, unfair on every child who is named a Slytherin. Power-hungry and ambitious they say, never attempting to redirect that ambition. Slytherins all support Voldemort, that is what everybody knows. Is it any wonder that I became a Death Eater? I merely followed the pattern of my schoolfellows; Rosier, Wilkes and Lestrange. Slytherin seems to be the house of no hope, its children abandoned to their inevitable fate.

It is an unnecessary way to run the school. A quarter of the students every year are written off, practically encouraged to throw out their chances and throw in their lot with the Dark side. Surely Dumbledore can see that this is wrong!

Becoming Death Eaters wasn't a good choice for either myself or my friends. They ended up dead or in Azkaban. And I ended up as a teacher. A non- entity, teaching students who don't want to be taught. They butcher my craft, with their horny-handed attempts at the potions. It is a delicate art, requiring precision, care and intense practice. It cannot all be learnt from a book, but also from years of applied learning. I tell every first year class that I can teach them to "bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death". They make the appropriate impressed faces and I continue. But am I just fooling myself? If I can do all this, why don't I?

I suppose the simple answer is that I'm scared. Of the Death Eaters-the ones who stayed loyal- and of Lord Voldemort, even when he was thought dead. I don't want to be brave and dead. Or like the Longbottoms, alive but not really. I'd rather be alive. I'm not an ambitious fool. I know that teaching here is the best job I can get. No one wants to employ an ex-Death Eater. It's a label I'll always carry, a cross I'll always bear.

At least here I can try to change some of the potential Voldemort supporters. As head of Slytherin House, I can talk to them and advise them. Not that many of them take the opportunity. And, of course, I can't be seen undermining Voldemort's recruitment, not now I have to be seen to join his side. But I do try to help them. Even though I'm accused of favouritism. It hurts, to let all my students go. Some of them I'm sure I'll lose soon. Those with parents in Lord Voldemort's circle. Ones like Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy.

Malfoy especially. I've watched him turning into a miniature version of his father. It's a waste of such promise. Everyone knows that he's destined to be one of Voldemort's most loyal supporters, so no one bothers to think of him otherwise. I don't think even he thinks of himself otherwise. He's never been told any different. He reminds me of myself at that age. No one thought I would amount to anything good.

And they were about right. Look at me, one of the most hated teachers of Hogwarts. Probably the most hated. I did what everyone thought I would and pledged my allegiance to Voldemort. No one was surprised, no one cared. Maybe Dumbledore did, or maybe he just saw how helpful I could be as an informer. Either way, he's the only reason I'm here and not in Azkaban. That I owe him.

That's why I have to repay him. I can't curl up in a corner and ignore this whole situation. That's why I'm sitting here at my piano, prolonging the time before I have to go. I don't like change; I like things exact. It's the only way I can keep control of my life.

The sonata draws to a close, the scales pouring down into the trills. It has its ordered preciseness, as I try to have mine. But that'll all be gone. The time draws on, and I must go. And I don't know what will happen.

I am afraid.

End.

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