There was a crash in the downstairs study. The man in the bedroom upstairs awoke with a start. He was certain he heard something, although the house was now silent once again. His once black hair had long ago turned white, but his hearing was as sharp as ever. If anything he felt he could hear much better in his old age than in his youth.
He turned to look at the woman lying next to him. She obviously had not been disturbed by anything. He hesitated to wake her; she had been more tired lately than usual. Her hair was streaked with gray. Her face, which had once been young and beautiful, was now old and wrinkled. In the midst of all of this, he stopped to allow himself a small smile. She was older, but his wife had never looked more beautiful to him. Every line on her face told a story. The laugh lines bespoke of a long, happy marriage filled with laughter and warmth. Worry lines reminded him of all of the times she had been afraid that he would not be coming home to her or the intense worries she had about the safety of her children. She had long ago stopped trying to cover up the gray hairs with potions. For that he was thankful. Each strand reminded him of the intense patience she had for all of the people in her life. When they were younger, she would yell at him, "Your children are driving me crazy! My hair will be whiter than Dumbledore's by next week!" Yes, his children inherited several of his own qualities, but they had also picked up much of their mother's personality. He was always quick to counter her with the reminder that his children were half hers as well.
Crash! There it was again. He was not mistaken this time. Quickly, but carefully getting out of his bed, he reached for the wand that was lying on the bedside table. Even though it had been years since he had felt that his or his family's lives were in real danger, he stayed ever ready and vigilant for the worst. He checked on his wife. She was still sleeping, and hopefully would remain that way.
He moved with great stealth out of the door to his and his wife's sleeping chambers. The large manor that held so many horrible memories from his own childhood had long ago been transformed into the loving, warm family home he used to spend hours wishing for. But now with the threat of someone or something entering into his precious home had turned it once again into the cold, sterile manor of his youth. There had been an abundance of fear and anxiety in the house of his ancestors.
There was a small ray of light extending into the corridor from underneath the door to his study. He paused a moment to consider what any potential prowler might be interested in in this particular room. It contained his most prized volumes of potions literature, but little else of anything more than personal value. He heard the soft sound of one cursing under their breath followed by an obvious attempt to pick up whatever had been dropped within. Cautiously, remembering the years he spent skulking around in dark alleys and corridors, he silently opened the door a crack.
A breath he did not even realize he had been holding immediately released from him. Crouched on the floor next to his curio cupboard was a small figure he knew very well. The shock of dark, raven hair could only belong to a Snape. He opened the door completely and moved swiftly to stand inside the frame. Crossing his arms and scowling as he did in his younger days, the man, despite his elderly appearance was every bit the same as the professor he had been long ago.
The young girl, hardly older than sixteen jumped to her feet with a squeak. She turned around swiftly to see who had caught her. Upon seeing the form of Severus Snape, she looked all at once relieved and frightened. She apparently was not accustomed to seeing the scowling look he had on his face.
"May I ask what it is that you find so fascinating at such a late hour, Muirgen?" he asked of the nervous young girl.
"I was just… I was just…" she stammered.
He raised a single eyebrow at her, a look that had reduced many first years to tears.
"I do not believe I can remember a time when you have ever been this speechless," he replied sardonically.
"I am very sorry, Grandfather," she managed to say, apparently recovering from the shock of finding herself no longer alone. "I was having trouble sleeping."
"So you immediately decided to come downstairs into my private study? For what reason? I assure you it would be most difficult to find sleep in here."
Muirgen shifted uncomfortably under the watchful gaze of her grandfather. She was unused to seeing her grandfather upset. According to her aunt, there was a time when he used to lose his temper at the drop of a hat. Her own grandmother had often laughed thinking about the times he had given detentions to some poor unsuspecting Gryffindor or Hufflepuff after they had unintentionally allowed their shoes to squeak on the stone floors of Hogwarts Castle. To her benefit, Muirgen had entered the world years after Severus Snape had lost his infamous short fuse and acerbic mouth. There were times however, times she had rarely seen, when he had yelled at one of his own children or grandchildren. Because she had never been on this side of his temper, she felt frightened for the first time in the presence of her grandfather.
"Forget it, Muirgen," he sighed, rubbing his tired eyes. "There is really no reason why you would be in here, so I will not listen to your excuse. Please just go back up to your room quietly so you do not disturb your grandmother."
He turned to leave towards the door. Muirgen thrust a tiny box she had been holding onto a bookcase beside her. The sound of it hitting the solid wood case stopped Severus is in his tracks. Abruptly he turned back around to face his granddaughter. His sharp hearing had not missed her attempt to conceal her real reason for being in his study in the middle of the night. With almost cat-like grace, he was at her side without a moment's thought. Muirgen's hand had hardly left the box when he reached out and grabbed her wrist.
"Grandfather…" she stammered.
He saw what it was she had been trying to hide… his pensieve. Years ago when he had caught Harry Potter inside his pensieve during an Occulmency lesson he swore never to let another break into his again. He had a small wooden box constructed to hold the pensieve and it always had an intricate locking spell on it. To be able to break into the box was virtually impossible.
Muirgen had a startled look on her face as he reached past her with his free hand to pick up his pensieve box. The lock had been picked by magical means. There were very few wizards capable of breaking through any of Severus Snape's defenses. He sighed as he took one more look at his granddaughter. Muirgen Snape had been in trouble from the day she was born. She had stumbled into his private stores of potion ingredients at the tender age of four. It had taken her no time once she returned from her first year at Hogwarts to break into every locked room and cupboard in the entire Snape manor. Muggle or magical did not matter to her. She could pick all those locks. Now that she had just finished her fifth year she was into almost everything.
"What are you doing with this?" he demanded a little louder than he had anticipated.
"For a girl who usually had more than enough to say and perhaps too much, you certainly are having a hard time putting sentences together. You are of the age now that you understand that what one wishes to keep private should be left private!"
"I know… it's just that…"
"Do you know how wrong it is to steal someone else's pensieve!"
"Yes, I do. I only wanted to find out if what some of my schoolmates were saying was true," she blurted out, and immediately wished she had not.
He dropped her wrist from his grasp.
"What did you hear?"
It had been his fervent hope that none of his grandchildren would ever learn of his past. His children knew; his older children were there for much of the parts he wished he could change. Long ago the decision was made to try to keep the truth of their grandfather's involvement with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters a secret from the children of his children. The individual members of the Snape family understood the importance of not talking about what happened. He had not considered, or rather not allowed himself to consider the possibility, that others outside of the family would tell.
"What have you heard?" he asked in a small, quiet tone.
"Some of the Slytherins told me that… that you once served the Dark Lord," she replied meekly. "I thought that if I could find your pensieve and see what happened I would be able to tell them that they were mistaken."
Severus sighed a deep, dejected sigh. Of course she would find out that her classmates had been correct. He knew that it would be impossible, as well as wrong, to hide the truth from her now. His large mahogany desk provided an ideal place to sit. Muirgen hovered around him unnervingly.
"The truth is, Muirgen," he began, but stopped abruptly. He was having difficulty finding the right place to start or the right words to use. There was so much that he did not want to tell her, but he knew that if he began he would have to disclose a lot of private information. "This will explain it all better."
He reached across his desk to retrieve the pensieve box he had unceremoniously dropped earlier.
"What are you doing?" Muirgen asked tentatively.
He took her hand and pulled her towards him and the now open pensieve. In no time at all they were both falling into the darkness that would take her to the answers she needed. As with any story, he knew he had to start at the beginning, the day everything started to change for him.