Note: Persephone_Kore Niffled me, and inspired me to drag this up out of my 'finished work' folder. This was my very first HP fanfic, and I don't think it's ever been archived anywhere before, so here it is...

Disclaimer: Needless to say, since I am not J.K. Rowling, I don't own any of these characters. Nor can I claim sole ownership to the concept, since parts of the story were inspired by another HP fic I read on fanfiction.net some time ago, about Snape's early years and why he turned his back on the Death Eaters. If anyone knows of this fic, I'd love to know what it's called and where to find it. I never did find it again after reading it the first time.

Face of Hate By Dyce

"You have exactly one hour to concoct your antidotes. At the end of the class, you will have the opportunity to use three of them on your classmates." He let the nervous murmur soothe his own bad temper, pacing slowly up and down among the tables.

He knew what they thought. That he was a Dark Wizard, that he would betray them all as soon as he could. He encouraged the belief. He didn't need to be popular with the students to do his job, and it might be useful to him, one day, to be known to have strong leanings towards the Dark.

He was hard on them, but he had to be. Had to make sure they learned. Not just their meagre little skills at potion-making, but other things. They had to learn fear, learn that when someone looked at them - so - and said certain things - thus - that they must then be wary. He cut at them with words, sometimes harsh, sometimes as delicate as a razor, and they learned mistrust, they learned fear, they learned caution. Not everyone can be trusted, they learned, not everyone is what they seem to be. And they feared and hated him for it, but when they went out into the world, they would be cautious. Certain ways of speaking, certain attitudes, would be a warning sign to them that all was not well.

And those who did not learn... those who saw only a very right and proper way of behaving in him... those he cultivated. Those he granted special indulgences and privileges, and always, always, kept them close under his eyes. Those students could not be trusted, not an inch, but they must be convinced that they could trust *him*. Believing that he was of their own selfish, wicked kind, they would conceal nothing from him, and from them he would learn much that no other could know.

And then... Potter. Gazing up at him with seething resentment through those round little glasses. Complaining and mistrusting and always the slightest bit fearful. Just how he should be. Potter had to learn, the stupid boy, that there were those who wished him great ill. He had to learn that rules were not made to be broken, especially not here at Hogwarts. The rules had been made to keep the students safe, to protect them until they were old enough to protect themselves. Yet Potter... just like his father before him... somehow seemed to believe that it was his God- given right to not only hurl himself into danger time and time again, but to drag his friends along as well. Sooner or later, Severus would have the opportunity to teach him the error of his ways. For now, he would settle for making sure the boy knew at least a hint of fear. Perhaps that would curb him a little.

Potter, of course, blamed everything on Severus' hatred of his father. So did everyone else, except perhaps Dumbledore, who had always seen deeper into Severus Snape's heart than anyone else, and deeper than he had ever wanted him to.

It had nothing to do with James Potter. Yes, he had hated him at school, but those days were twenty years gone and more. That resentment, that bitter loathing, had died with the man. To hold a grudge beyond the grave was weakness, allowing the dead power over the living. James Potter was dead. Severus Snape was not. That, as far as he was concerned, meant he had won.

But oh, he did hate the boy, worse than ever he had hated the father. James had had friends at school. Severus had not. James had been handsome and likeable. Severus had not. James had fallen in love, and been loved in return. Severus had not. But these things, he had comforted himself, were largely matters of chance and fate... and choice. Severus had made his own choices, to pursue knowledge instead of friendship, magical power instead of love.

Only one of those choices had he ever had cause to regret. In a rage of anger and despair, realizing that all his intellect and all his power would never buy him recognition or acceptance, he had become a Death Eater, one of Voldemort's chosen. And he had realized, too late, that there could be a price too high to pay for power and recognition. He had realized that despite his own flaws, his own willingness to do whatever was necessary for himself, despite everything that had always been said of him, he was not an evil man. There were acts he could not bring himself to perform. Thoughts he could not think without shuddering away in horror at what he might soon become. He did not want to be a Death Eater. He did not want to bring Voldemort's evil to power.

Terrified, despairing of his own survival, he had then performed the first truly selfless act of his life. He had gone to Dumbledore, less than a year after leaving Hogwarts supposedly forever, and confessed everything. And Dumbledore had offered him a terrible choice. He could flee, be hidden somewhere in a place where Voldemort would never find him. Dumbledore would arrange that. Or... and even now, twenty years later, he shuddered at the memory... he could stay. No other Death Eater had ever dared to break away from Voldemort. Perhaps none had ever wanted to. But he, Severus Snape, could be invaluable to the forces that ranged themselves against the dark. He could pass information to them, and misinformation to Voldemort, becoming a double agent in the very heart of the enemy camp.

No-one, as far as he knew, had ever successfully lied to the Dark Lord. And if he stayed, he would have to lie over and over again, knowing the slightest slip would kill him, or worse.

In the second and last truly selfless act of his life, Severus had chosen to stay and become a spy in Voldemort's most secret councils. For nearly six years, he had gone again and again to stand before the Dark Lord, and lie. Lie and swear that he had killed the families of members of the Ministry, when he had sent them instead into hiding, transfiguring earth and stones into convincing looking bodies to be left behind. Lie and say he had stolen this or that piece of information from the Ministry, at great risk, when it had been slipped to him by Dumbledore to help make his tales more convincing. Lie, and swear loyalty to the Dark Lord over and over, gazing into his red eyes and lying to him. That had been the worst of all.

For nearly six years he had walked in the shadow of torment and death, knowing that at any moment it might fall upon him, never expecting to survive more than another day or two. He had no family to be used against him, that was his only comfort. His father had been killed by a ravening werewolf many years ago. His mother had died of a fever when Severus had been in his fifth year. So when he died, he would at least take no-one with him.

But he had not died.

It had been close, though. News of Voldemort's seeming death had barely begun to spread when a group of Death Eaters who had gathered to await his next orders had been suddenly surrounded by Aurors. The Aurors had been angry and vengeful, striking at the Death Eaters as much to kill as to capture. Fortunately, Dumbledore had cautioned one or two of the younger Aurors, those loyal to him personally, to keep an eye out for Snape and see that he wasn't harmed. One of them had been present, and had captured him more or less gently. Then Dumbledore had come for him, swearing to certain high officials that Severus could be trusted.

He had survived. But he had survived to a lifetime of mistrust, for his name had been unusually well known among the Death Eaters as a purveyor of information. Too many had accused him, and with Voldemort only missing, not dead, he had feared to defend himself too vehemently. Better to allow his fellow Death Eaters to think that he had merely cozened the old man into vouching for him, and was not yet entirely lost to the cause.

And the boy... the wretched, selfish, *stupid* boy! He had done *nothing*! Just sat there, probably bawling his infant head off, and by no cleverness of his own had survived. And *he* was given the credit of defeating Voldemort! Years of living in fear, of taking risks no other wizard dared even to contemplate, lying to the Dark Lord over and over when no other could even imagine doing so... and Severus Snape was hated and mistrusted by all. Sitting stupidly in one spot and somehow causing a curse to fail... and Harry Potter was the darling of the wizarding world, the golden boy, the Saviour Of Them All. Harry Potter had saved *no-one*! He had never hidden Stupefied women and children in attics and closets under the very noses of fellow Death Eaters, conjuring bodies to be displayed in their place. He had never forced himself to stand by and watch parents be tortured to death, staying silent for the sake of an infant hidden under his robes to be sent to safety when all was over.

And Severus could not even wish that it hadn't happened. The single sticking point, the one thing he had not been able to stomach, the thing which had driven him to Dumbledore's office that fateful night - had been his inability to kill the children of Voldemort's enemies. Even before his half-hysterical confession, Severus had managed to hide or spirit away a half-dozen of those tiny victims, often leaving their parents behind to die alone. They would have wanted the children to be safe, he had believed, and still did believe.

And if he had been there that night, he would have taken the Potter boy too, hidden him in the heavy robes of the Death Eater, transfiguring something into a simulacrum for the Dark Lord to take pleasure in destroying. He could not be sorry that the child had lived.

But he could hate him. Hate him for getting all the credit, for being admired and respected when he, Severus, had taken greater risks and done greater good than any other wizard could have dared, and was despised for it.

It was petty, he knew that. But he'd never pretended to be a good or moral person. Just... not an evil one, either.

"Potter," he drawled in his most venemous voice, allowing himself to enjoy the boy's start. "I sincerely hope you've been paying attention. I have every intention of testing your antidote on one of your classmates... Mr Weasley, perhaps."

One way or another, he'd instill caution in the boy. One way or another.

(end)