This chapter solely focuses on Severus Snape himself. It is an introductory overview of his persona, as seen by others and himself. The rest of this tale will involve other characters, and they will interact in present tense.

Also, just f.y.i., this chapter is admittedly difficult to read, but since its creation was so meaningful to me, I cannot bring myself to change it. Do forgive me, but I'm sure all you sentimental folks out there will understand. This is the only chapter in such a format; the others have been separated by paragraphs so they are easier to read.

I hope you enjoy this most salaciously strange tale. Welcome to SSS's take on the HP universe, starring her favorite characters therein:

Beneath the Surface

'He Who Cannot Be Saved'

A pure, golden shaft of light spilled fearlessly onto the center of the black linen covers of the bed, forming roughly a perfect circle. Specks of dust danced gaily and effortlessly in and around the ray, only becoming visible when bathed in its light. They were free to come and go, their only guide and master the omnipresent air itself.

'I envy you.'

The rest of the room was still shrouded in near complete darkness, as the requisite candles and fireplaces hadn't been lit yet. The frail beacon of light was like the mythical fire of the gods, the single symbol of warmth and brilliance in an unforgiving world of shadow and cold, and was coveted as such. The slender beam of light radiated through a circular crack in the stone foundation that, although accidentally so, had been driven through by an Unforgivable spell cast in anger and aimed without thought at a memory that was tormenting and taunting in its unchangeability. The spell was indeed cast with exceptionally formidable force, and even this reckless burst of considerable energy was but a mere modicum of the full strength of the one who uttered it.

Ah, the one who uttered it. This one is unlike any other that had previously existed; this one has the strength of a savior and the desires of a despot. This one can spit out with ease words of such cruelty and malice that any being who even remotely provokes him would be convinced that they were the very bane of his fearsome existence; but this one also is as vulnerable and sensitive to any and all feeling as a doe. And like that creature, he will flee the humans who would reach out to him in compassion, mistaking their kindness for cruelty, for he has not known kindness from his own species, save for but a very small few. In his rather vast experience, tenderness and understanding are given out of need and exchanged for whatever is needed from him. Many times he has damned his intelligence, his strength, his unique gifts for making such a commodity out of him. Many times he would wish them away in exchange for conventional and ordinary attributes, for then no one would need his powers and not his presence, his person. He has come to accept that his body is merely the vessel in which he exists on this Earthly plane, and treats it as if it be but a thing beyond all feeling, an empty shell. Because of this attitude, he possesses an unearthly grace and fluidity of movement, unique only to him. Although it would appear contrived, his sureness and coordination are borne from total ignorance of his physical existence, rather than fixation on his ego.

This one is the essence of darkness, the master of the cauldron and all its supernatural secrets, the lord of the dungeons and the sovereign of the senses. This one is vulnerability personified and at the same time his own Frankenstein. Evil incarnate and need embodied.

He now sits despondently upon his immense bed, entombed within its black veils and canopy. He is sitting cross-legged, his entire body appearing boneless and sagging with exhaustion~felt so often by him it is now thought of as merely 'lack of energy'. His arms rest limply at his sides, wrists atop knees, long, slender hands dangling lifelessly from them, just grazing the ebony bedspread. Inky black hair raggedly frames his face, setting off the equally jet hue of his large, fierce eyes. His eyelids are always resting low over his eyes, as if bored with life; never do they widen in shock or squeeze shut in anguish. No, nothing that he sees surprises him anymore. Long ago had they lost the naive, innocent sparkle that graces the eyes of the curious and spirited, for they have seen so many horrific and awesome spectacles pass into and behind them that, soon after the demise of the sparkle, so too perished the ability to register feeling. Or the desire to possess it. His face, so used to being contorted into a frown or sneer, looks only mildly distressed when he is alone, like now. His brows creased tentatively over his eyes, he stares intently into the circle of light with its dancing dust bunnies that is suspended just a few inches before where he is seated. It seems as though he is looking past it, or through it, so tired are his eyes, now beyond having bags under the lids but instead are constantly graced with a shadowy, purple stain. But still, he stares directly into it, and has been steadfastly doing so all night, an activity that has become rather a tradition since his anger towards his rash actions in mistakenly creating it had dispelled over time. The light had not caused his sleeplessness; in fact, he'd been an insomniac for years now. Ages, so it seemed. Now even sleep was no longer a respite from his troubles, and of those he had many. He used to spend his nights working diligently before the cauldron, or researching whatever it was that had currently captured his interest. On the nights that he was especially troubled, he would apparate out of his rooms in favor of more distracting company or activities, which could include seeing prostitutes in order to be physically comforted by someone or meeting anonymous dealers for the chemical relief of his worries; depending on his mood, of course. Each of these exchanges cost him money and respect for himself, and each involved the most impersonal kind of intimacy between people, as if he were playing at normalcy. Then again, there were some nights when he didn't even have to decide which sinful distraction to indulge himself in, nights when his destination had been chosen for him. Occasionally he was...'called away' to do business. To participate in debauchery far more foul than any that he would so willingly force upon himself alone. Meetings where he would be compelled to complete, inch by agonizing inch, night by endless night, life by pitiful life, the pattern of a mistake that he had committed in bitterness and anger; one he would pay for with his soul, if he even retained that at this point, for his will to live had forsaken him long ago. Had he a choice, he would rather end his life now than have it slowly sapped out of him drop by drop, night by night, life by life when he no longer possessed his own to end. But he gave up any choices he would ever have when that smoldering hatred was burned into him. Yes, the degradation of losing his body and forgetting his mind in the poisonous haze of a drugged stupor or in the ephemeral embrace of a whore was by far preferable to even a second of harking to the hateful hiss of that forked tongue.

But now that he'd discovered the light–or accepted its presence in his life–it became favored over his customary distractions. In fact, he had not participated in any of them once since he had become captivated by its warmth. The light had no consequences whatsoever, involved no human interaction of any kind. No, it was merely a mindless diversion, a cheery beam to meditate upon. Staring into it was like sleep for him, as it allowed him to slowly shut down his body as he concentrated on its nuances and shades while the darkness of night slowly shifted into daylight. Those who knew him or even knew of him would be surprised at the way he spent his nights as of late. Renowned for both his genius in his chosen vocation as well as excelling in any subject that ensnared his fascination (of those, there were many), his uncanny intelligence was proven both in his record-breaking test scores and in complex conversation. He also possessed an exceptionally quick wit and astounding cleverness which permeated his every utterance. Such a powerful and fiercely intelligent mind could seemingly never be sated with such a mundane, pointless pastime as staring into a narrow, little beam of light. But that is just why he felt so at peace when he closed out the world in favor of its light; because a mind and soul such as his were not meant for this world, and he was at his happiest when he could escape from it and be released from the torment of the knowledge that he just didn't belong, and never would.

He sighed. His thoughts began to order and reconvene themselves in his mind.

'I suppose I should get up, those cauldrons won't ready themselves. Would that I wasn't scheduled to teach first period, but it isn't as if I've anything better to do with my time. Or anything worse, thank gods.'

Reluctantly, he began to move almost imperceptibly, shifting his limbs and turning his head from side to side so as to regain feeling in his body and return to it. He slowly snaked an arm forward, his fingers undulating gracefully as they reached out for the light. As soon as the light's warmth touched his hand, he struggled not to yank his arm back and started slightly, as if he was unworthy of its comfort. But he held his hand still bravely, if a bit tentatively. Closing his eyes for the first time in hours, he reveled in the feeling of the warmth flowing down his arm and gradually spreading throughout his body. He was nearly always cold, though he never took note of this until he felt heat. His features relaxed for the first time in too long, and his mouth fell open a fraction as his eyebrows arched heavenwards in relief. When he heard the soft sigh escape his lips, he came back to himself and to his accustomed frown, blinking at his sudden return to reality. He moved to the edge of his bed and stood up languidly, stretching his arms up and arching his back like a cat as his body shuddered with the movement. He shook himself out and slunk serpentinely over to his vanity table. It was a vast, severe-looking piece of furniture, made from the hardiest of wood that had been carved ornately so that it spiraled delicately yet strongly within its circular frame. It had been burnished the darkest mahogany, appearing almost black, yet had a glowing undertone of emerald green. Very unusual and foreboding thing, but he valued it all the same. It had been passed down through his family for eleven generations, and since he presumed that he would be its last owner of his line, he treated the frightful thing with the utmost respect, always sitting gingerly on its matching, carved-wood chair and touching it very carefully, if ever. It was as if the vanity table was his parents incarnate, and he feared and awed it as he had feared and awed them.

He hesitated before lighting the room, not wishing to break the calming spell of the sunlight he had been captivated by all night. But he sighed and intoned 'lumos' before looking into the mirror (it did not speak, as mirrors charmed so had always made him uncomfortable. He valued his privacy, and talking inanimate objects violated it). There was his gaunt face, deathly pale and gloomy, as usual. His unkempt hair hung over his eyes, darkening his face further. He rolled his eyes heavenward before picking up the comb from its place atop the vanity, anticipating the pain that dragging it through his tangled hair would bring.

'May as well just get it over with. It's not as if you haven't earned it.'

He unceremoniously began tugging it through his hair, wincing ever so slightly as it caught on tangle after snarl before finally completing its task. He let out a short breath as he replaced it on the vanity. When he looked back at his reflection in the mirror, he looked every bit as dark and gloomy, only with straight, smooth hair. Turning his head to the left and then right, eyes riveted critically on his reflection, he was satisfied with his appearance. Not pleased, but satisfied. He smirked mockingly at himself and turned away from the mirror, rising smoothly from the vanity and gliding over to his wardrobe. Everything, black. He had rid himself of near any other color upon his return to this institution, though for as long as he could remember he had never put himself in any colors but the darkest and most subdued shades; for some inexplicable reason the shocking brightness of reds, oranges, and yellows and the subtle warmth of purples, blues and greens frightened him rather terribly. He had never fully formulated this realization in his mind, but he had increasingly recoiled from such colors as the years went on. In the jumbled haze of his thoughts, he could make out the distinct feeling that he was undeserving of drawing such attention to himself, or of putting any thought into how the colors could enhance or add to his appearance.

He chose a simple black, button-down, high-neck shirt and black trousers. His ensemble was simple and straightforward. It all but screamed 'I'm a dark, bad-tempered wizard. Leave me be, or I'll hex you'. Needless to say, it achieved the desired effect. But appearances can be deceiving. Being unusually sensitive to touch, each article of clothing was always of the purest silk or cotton. The clothing appeared rather simple, but one outfit alone cost a rather scandalous amount of money. Comfort was important to him. What did he need to save his money for, anyway?

'I can't stand grey, so what else is there but black? I've always liked black. It's a very solemn yet dignified color. It also makes me look as severe and callous on the outside as I am within, so it saves me the trouble of having to so scathingly convince others of said fact. And I think navy blue is absolutely horrid; reminds me of school uniforms and the muggle military.' He shuddered at that thought. Although he was now forced to bend to it like a willow in a hurricane, in his innermost spirit, he would never bow to authority. He had never been violently rebellious like many in his youth, but instead chose to reveal his extreme individuality, stubborn will and unusually profound ideals and beliefs in more subtle, yet infinitely more effective methods. Such as changing the tone of an essay paper just so to artfully infuse what was asked of him with what he wished to convey; or of not conforming to silly standards of what people 'should' look and behave like. He rarely speaks when left to his own devices, but when he does, it is to say something meaningful and worth wasting the breath to express it. His solemn and austere ways had always frightened others off; most could not understand someone who so adamantly kept to themself and refused to bow to social standards. Someone so dark and secretive.

'Hmm...it's early yet. Perhaps I'll get to class before those sniveling brats do, for once. How delightful it will be, seeing their little faces contort in panic upon discovering, to their most distressing horror, that they've awoken to their worst nightmare awaiting them in all his demonic glory.'

He smirked mirthlessly at this thought. Contrary to popular belief, he was not a monster, nor insensitive. He just completely lacked the desire to conceal his honest opinions and thoughts from others, and was equally unconcerned at their reactions to his rather direct turn of phrase. He had long ago quit caring what others thought of him. To be sure, the old, self-effacing thoughts still dragged themselves mercilessly through his mind whenever he was regarded askance, or when whispers flitted unbidden through the multitude of his thoughts, or when he saw the murderous look in the eye of a student after he had carelessly and publicly degraded whatever it was they had poured their hearts into. So they insisted, anyway. But though the cruel little voice of long ago had become habit and still hissed vicious little taunts rather consistently, it did not have the same effect that it'd had on him as a young boy. He merely accepted that he was a malicious bastard and moved on to the next innocent. For he no longer was one. Perhaps he'd never even been born one, for surely no one of pure origins would have gravitated to all that was vile and depraved, such as he had. No, he had always been a disgrace to humanity, and he accepted this truth and lived within it. But what made him really bad, truly evil, was the fact that he took pleasure–even in the smallest measure–out of this belief. He stretched his closed mouth into a mirthless smile, mocking himself. He pulled on his teaching robes, straightened himself out, and went to the door. Indulging in one last glance at the shaft of light, he offered it the tiniest smile, as if acknowledging it as a dear friend. Closing his eyes for a moment, he basked once more in its safety and warmth. As his eyes slowly opened, the faint smile slipped from his face, leaving it placid and expressionless once more. He lowered his head and turned to the door, and away from his sanctuary. Looking back up, the usual frown etched over his features, he cleared his mind and readied himself for the outside world, and all that comes with it.

'Well, go get them, 'Snivellus'. Time to make the little children cry.'