Title: Finding His Voice

Prologue: Learn to Be Lonely

Author: Michmak

Disclaimers: not mine, boo hoo.

A/N: the return of angst! I realize this is very, very short – but I do have something in the works and am just laying the foundation with this depressing little prologue. Forgive me - and let me know what you think. I'm viewing this as a bit of a companion piece to 'She Never Stops Talking', which was supposed to be a PWP one-shot but just refuses to let me go. She Never Stops Talking is posted over on Ashwinder, as it does not fit the ratings scheme here. If you want to read it in order to get an idea of what this story shall focus on I highly recommend going over there and joining - there are many wonderful stories there.

He was not a social man by nature – or was that by nurture? It was hard for him to tell, sometimes, and he'd really given up wondering a long time ago. When he had been younger, had he been this way? Dark and brooding; quick to anger and unforgiving?

He didn't think so. He recalled a time, in the hazy past of his childhood, when he had longed for physical affection; the gentle squeeze of a hand on his shoulder and a 'well done son'; the soft caress of a mother's hand running through his hair. He even recalled a time when he had wanted friends.

But that was ancient history and these were things he no longer needed. At least, this is what he liked to tell himself, and the majority of the time he allowed himself to believe.

He was not a man accustomed to sunlight and laughter; shadows and secrets were the places he lived. And if loneliness was not his natural state, it was one he had learned to accept and even, at times, to relish.

He needed no one and no one needed him. He told himself he wanted it this way. He had learned his lessons well; lessons taught by the harsh hands of his father and the indifference of a woman never meant to be a mother. All he had was duty and pride – and sometimes, he didn't even have pride.

Survival was the last thing he had expected. He had been prepared for his death and, if it was not something he was exactly longing for, it wouldn't have been unwelcome in the end.

Bugger Fate – the nefarious old bitch never gave one what they really wanted. He had come to realize over the years that Fate rarely gave one what they really deserved either. When the dust had settled after the final battle, once the bodies were counted and it became obvious that the Light had won, Snape had been left wondering how to go about picking up the pieces of his life and starting over.

What was he starting over with, was the question? It was a terrible thing when a man outlived his duty; outlived his usefulness. He still had his teaching position, of course – could still terrorize the dunderheads, could still fully live the persona of the 'greasy git', but what else was there for him?

He was not a man who had friends. The few he would have considered his friends at one point in his life were all dead or in Azkaban, more likely than not cursing his name to hell as they actively worked out ways to kill him. Albus was a friend, he supposed. The older man had certainly stood by him in the aftermath of the war, when his activities as a double agent and spy for the Order had come to light. But who else was there?

Everywhere he went, he was viewed with outright hostility and suspicion – it didn't help that The Daily Prophet featured him almost as prominently in their rag as Potter. Potter, of course, was the Wizard-of-the-Hour, the man-child who had almost single-handedly defeated Voldemort. Snape - well, with him, it was different. He was the double agent, trading his knowledge to whatever side seemed to be winning at the time. It was implied his status as a spy had basically given him free reign to commit whatever atrocities he so desired; that the only reason he had come out on the side of the light in the end was out of his own self-interest.

He should have expected that, of course. Years of isolation at Hogwarts, on top of his reputation as an anti-social practitioner of the dark arts and his own 'greasy bat' persona, all served to work against him now. Not that it mattered. He was used to living alone. He liked the solitude of the dungeons at Hogwarts. And he knew, no matter what anyone else thought about it, he would always have a job as the Potions Master at Hogwarts. Albus was never swayed by public opinion - deserved or not.

So, he retreated to his dungeons. When he was grudgingly awarded the Order of Merlin First Class for his participation in the downfall of Voldemort, it was done so via Owl Post, without much fanfare. Whereas everyone else was presented theirs at a large public gathering, with much fanfare and brouhaha, Snapes was dropped in his soup by some senile old owl that barely had the strength to carry it.

The letter that accompanied it had been short and too the point:
"For services to the Light, we are pleased to present Severus Caligula Snape with the Order of Merlin, First Class."

On a separate piece of parchment were the words,

"Severus, we regret that we cannot present you with this award at the public ceremony where the rest of the medals are being presented. Public opinion is very volatile at the moment, and for your own safety we must exclude you from the celebrations. Thank you for your understanding.
Patroculis Paternoster,
Acting Minister of Magic,
Great Britain."

When Dumbledore found out the reason for Snape's absence from the awards presentations, he had been outraged on the younger man's behalf but Severus himself had calmly accepted the edict as a matter of course. The Wizarding World hadn't accepted him even before he had become a Death Eater – why should they do so now?

Snape was a proud man, but he was also a realist. He knew what he had done had been pivotal in the downfall of Voldemort and so he accepted his medal as his due. It didn't concern him in the least that almost everyone begrudged him his very life; that few were inclined to believe he had actually acted as a spy with the purest of motivations. He didn't need anyone's respect - he had never wanted to be a hero.

At least, that's what he told himself. Sometimes, he even believed it.


AN Redux: with the angst comes the return of the sad songs – such as this lovely little gem, recently written to play over the end credits of Phantom of the Opera, which, btw, is a great movie with a truly sexy Gerard Butler looking especially good in tight pants and leather masks. (and I mean that in a non-BDSM kinda way, lol.)

Learn to Be Lonely

Child of the wilderness
Born into emptiness
Learn to be lonely
Learn to find your way in darkness

Who will be there for you?
Comfort and care for you?
Learn to be lonely
Learn to be your one companion

Never dreamed, out in the world
There are arms to hold you
You've always known
Your heart was on its own

So laugh in your loneliness
Child of the wilderness
Learn to be lonely
Learn how to love
Life that is lived alone

Learn to be lonely
Life can be lived
Life can be loved