NOTE: Hogwarts and the characters and concepts in Harry Potter belong to the fabulous J.K. Rowling, and of course I make no claim to own them. If I owned them, Snape would have been given a background and a story long before Book #4, but that's irrelevant....

Okay, this is my first fanfiction ever, so PLEASE read and review or I'll probably just give up on this writing thing. This is just the introduction to this story, and I'm not completely sure where I'm going with it or even if I'm gonna finish it at all. This will depend on the response I get from this little teaser intro. (Hint, hint, hint....) I actually wrote this introduction and came up with the concept for the story BEFORE Goblet of Fire was released (including Snape being a double-agent) and then went back and changed some things to fit GoF. I know Snape is a little out of character in the first scene, but there are reasons to be revealed later (the story will skip around in time quite a bit...if it gets written). So, with no further ado, my story of why Snape is as he is and why he hates Harry Potter so much....

The Price You Pay

In the final days of Lord Voldemort's rise, a younger Severus Snape is about to learn that in the dangerous game he's playing, betrayal can come from anywhere.

Severus Snape stood in the doorway of his dungeon office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, gazing around contemplatively at the stone walls. He marveled at the fact that this room had somehow, miraculously, come to feel like...well, not home really. But the closest thing to it he'd had in thirteen years. At that time, he would have scoffed at the idea that he would feel any remorse at leaving his teaching post at Hogwarts...and it was with the wonder that always comes with self-discovery that he realized it now. Now, when he knew he might never see any of it again.

"This is crazy," he thought for the thousandth time since he had agreed to go on this insane mission for Albus Dumbledore. "I'm going to get myself killed," he muttered out loud. "Am I so far gone that I truly think Lord Voldemort won't figure out I'm not really on his side?"

"No," he thought. "Of course he'll see through this." After tonight he was a walking dead man, as far as Snape was concerned. He closed his eyes for a moment, feeling again the horror that had gripped him ever since the Dark Mark had started to reappear on his arm. "It's all happening again," Snape whispered.

Almost, he went to Dumbledore and backed out, told the Headmaster it was just too dangerous, he couldn't afford to pay such a heavy price as he already had once in his life. Almost. But an overwhelming desire for vengeance--revenge against the Dark Lord for what had happened all those years ago--was too overpowering. Remembering that night--the most terrible night in his memory--Severus Snape knew what he had to do. Even if it cost him his life, which it surely would in the end.

He swallowed, his grim, determined face masking the chill, sick feeling of horror he still felt every time he thought about that day.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Avada Kedavra!"

The word echoed ominously through the small clearing in the woods where the two opponents stood facing eachother, wands drawn. A flash of brilliant green light filled the air, and slowly one of the figures crumpled to the ground.

Severus Snape, twenty-two years old, stood staring at the body of the older wizard that lay in front of him, his whole body trembling. Severus's wand hand was still pointing at the prone figure of the old Auror where he lay at his feet, and the knuckles clutching the wand were white with tension. The green afterglow from his spell was just beginning to fade from his eyes.

I just killed someone, a little voice was saying incredulously in the back of his mind. What have I gotten myself into? There was something brave and courageous--honorable, even--in the felled body of the Auror, even in death. It was at that moment, staring at the crumpled form in front of him, that Severus Snape first began to regret his commitment to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Little did he know that it was just the beginning of the disillusionment and loss he would suffer before it was all over.

Severus Snape had just graduated from Hogwarts, an intelligent young wizard of only seventeen, when he first started attending Death Eater meetings with his old Slytherin housemates. He wouldn't call them friends, not really--he was too much of a loner for that--but they were entertaining and exciting, and they filled the void that his graduation from Hogwarts had left.

Like so many other young people of the last three hundred years and more, Severus was attracted to the political movement of his time that seemed the most revolutionary, the most anti-establishment. That this just happened to be Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters was a stroke of bad luck that the young Snape would unwittingly pay for all his life.

But at the time, all he knew was that the world was changing, fast. There was an excitement in the air of new ideas and shifting ideals--and Severus Snape wanted to be a part of it, on top of the new order that he believed was sure to rise from the ashes of the old.

And so he became a Death Eater with all of his housemates. Except that Snape was smarter than most of them, and therefore more useful to the Dark Lord. As the years passed and Voldemort continued to rise in power, Snape's quick mind and natural wizarding ability--especially at the art of Potions--quickly made him one of the dark wizard's youngest and closest advisors.

Severus's parents were tolerant of their son's allegiances, although he was the only Snape so closely allied with the Dark Lord. Severus's young sister, Robin, was still at Hogwarts, and his brother Charles, two years older than him, was employed by Gringotts Bank. Too self-centered to ever be anything but apathetic when it came to politics, Snape always thought. Their father, Lucien, was the owner of the largest Potions supplier in the world. He was neither a supporter of the Ministry nor of Voldemort, but rather (in his own words) a supporter of profit, willing to sell his allegiance to the highest bidder.

On that particular day, almost five years after his graduation, Severus took the final step in declaring his loyalty to Voldemort, and at the same time discovered the first seed of doubt in his own mind. He took a human life, and for the first time experienced true remorse.

That day was significant for another reason as well. It was that day, when he came home to the house he still shared with his parents and sister, that he first met Erin. Erin Davies, her name was, and she was over at their house for dinner. She was beautiful, with long auburn hair that reached her shoulders and framed her angelic face. Her deep brown eyes twinkled seductively when she laughed, which was often. By the end of the night, although still in a troubled state over the events of the afternoon, Severus was convinced that he was in love with her.

There was only one problem: She was his brother Charles's girlfriend.

And so, in that one fateful day, the stage was set for the tragic events that were soon to tear the Snape family apart forever and turn Severus Snape, later to become the hated, reclusive Potions master at Hogwarts School, into an almost-unrecognizable shell of the young man he once was.

A/N: Please tell me what you think! This is my first fanfic, so I need encouragement. I am also, of course, open to suggestions and negative comments as long as they're constructive....