If Only They Knew
Author's Note: Woah! I'm writing again? What is THIS? JK. I do not own any of the characters (as much as I would like to own Snape—heh heh heh.) They all belong to the lovely and talented JK Rowling who I bow in homage to every moment of my life. EDIT-Gotta love that spellchecker! Thanks to everyone who pointed out little mistakes :)
Summery: Snape, filled with an innumerable sense of sorrow, reflects on the death of the greatest wizard of all time while watching Draco sleep before they meet up with the Dark Lord after the fateful events that took place at Hogwarts.
Characters: Snape, Draco
Setting: Post HBP
The song of the phoenix drifts over these lands from afar. I know that song well—it is the song of death and sorrow, two things my life has been etched with since the cursed day my mother bore me and brought me into this world. I hated her. I hated her for her weakness and her love for the infernal man that was my father. I hated her for letting him hurt her. And I hated her for letting him hurt me as well. Those wounds never heal, even with the continual onward march of time.
Why do I think of these things now?
I shake my head, attempting to dislodge my current thought pattern. I loathe my weakness of being reflective and yet, I know that I will never be able to escape from the enemy within. I will forever be imprisoned in the dungeon of my own morality.
It is night now and we are alone, two outlaws on the run from their lives. Only the stars glow among the darkness, indifferent orbs of fission and fusion. The stars are scientifically based and do not care of the ways of the world. Littered in the black night sky, they remain mere watchers of the horizon. The cave I found for our shelter is small and yet it suffices for the boy and I. Nestled among the cracks of a nameless mountain range we passed on our way to the Dark Lord's hideout, it was the perfect hiding place. I was fully aware that we could have apparated directly to Him, but chose to let the boy and myself rest.
He needs time.
I need time.
A small fire in the center of the cave glows and casts it's light on two of the most hated figures in the entirety of the wizarding world:
Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape.
We are alone with only the warmth of the flames to accompany our thoughts. I sit, watching the boy who I had sworn to protect sleep restlessly. I am almost envious of the boy's ability to slumber—there will be no relief for myself tonight, nor the night after, nor the one after that.
Will I ever be able to dream peacefully again, or will the guilt of my conscience forever keep me awake?
The fire crackles unsympathetically, lighting the boy's figure with the fiendish colors of red and orange—the colors of hell and Hades. Draco sleeps softly, curled up near the base of the fire, entangled in his black robes in an almost fitful state. His face looks pale and weak. Looking at the boy's strained slumber causes me a pang of fatherly sympathy.
He is still a child and nothing more.
I reach over and lightly smooth the blonde hair back from his forehead, a motion which wakes the boy from his light state of sleep. He doesn't move, but opens his eyes and looks at me with a haunting sense of gratitude. He idolizes me now—not for my skill as a teacher, nor my devotion as a Death Eater, but for the sole fact that I have acted more as a father to him in these past months than Lucius has his entire life. He opens his mouth to speak, but I quickly conceal my moment of paternal love and let a stern look wash over my face once more. It is a look he and the rest of the world are accustomed to. It is a look that I over time have slowly accepted as my own.
"Sleep." I command him and look away from his gaze. Draco would not want his teacher—his savior—his idol and the seemingly undoubtedly darkest wizard in the world right now to show a moment of weakness as I just have. To my relief, he nods weakly and shuts his eyes once more. He will need to be much stronger to face the Dark Lord in the morning.
However, I am not strong enough to even face myself at the moment.
After a moment, the dragon is asleep once again, shallow breaths of uncertainty filling his lungs. From the creased lines upon his face and the slight twitch of his mouth, I know he is scared of the Dark Lord's wrath. I know he fears what punishment his master will bring upon him for his inevitable failure. His failure—his failure which became my own.
I push myself up from my sitting position next to the fire. Wiping my hands together, erasing the dusk marks that have left themselves upon my hands, I slowly walk away from the warmth in the center of the cave to the small opening. I wish I could wipe the bloodshed off of my hands so easily. But not even the strongest cleansing spell in the world would work on my own conscious.
Now at the front of the cave, I lean against the rocky side, overlooking the darkened valley before us. The beginning of the sun's rays are starting to think about showing themselves over green grassy hills in the distance. I watch with a sense of numbness. I hardly feel any emotions as of now, except the burn of hate from deep within my soul. Raw and bitter, the hate threatens to rise to the very top and overtake me once more. However, I do not hate Draco for what his weakness forced me to do. I cannot hate the boy that I recognize as a younger, albeit handsomer, version of myself. I know I would have made the same decision. I know I would have suffered the same fate.
Instead of hating him, I simply hate myself.
I hate myself for following through with the plan. It was what Dumbledore had requested me to do in the garden at Hogwarts on that fateful night I had told him of the Unbreakable Vow I had made with Narcissa and Bellatrix. I do not hate them either, for they, like the selfish people they are, were only acting on their best interest. For Narcissa, it was the boy, for Bellatrix, it was the test of my loyalty. However, I will never be able to forget what Dumbledore had told me after I spoke of the Vow I had made:
"Severus, you must-"
"You know I cannot. I would rather take my own life than yours. You are far more imporant than I--"
Dumbledore held up a hand, silencing me. I knew from his stern look that he had made up his mind.
"Severus." He said slowly "I am not asking you this as a friend, nor as a mentor. This is an order from me, personally. When the time comes when it is necessary—when Draco fails, for you know he will—when that time comes…I order you to complete the Vow. "
I looked at him with wild, questioning eyes.
"You will be responsible for Harry after that moment—for even I cannot protect him from beyond death.. I am aware that it will not be easy—but you know that at that moment, you must do everything in your power to keep yourself as close to Voldemort as possible in order to protect him. You must."
"No." I shook my head and took a step back. I could hear my voice starting to crack—begging him to come to his senses and order me to take my own life instead of his. "I cannot—I will not be responsible for your-"
"Promise me you will follow through with the plan, Severus." He looked at me with the light of desperation in his eyes "Promise me."
And so I went through with the plan—the plan which had been discussed with it's ultimate victim at length before hand. Dumbledore knew of the fiery binds of the Unbreakable Vow—he knew of my promise to protect Draco at the request of Narcissa. He knew that my promise would be his death. And still he had ordered me to go through with it, even though he knew it was to be his end. I knew it too and with his help, we had rehearsed the moment late at night in his office, among the portraits of headmasters and books and trinkets and candy. Among Fawkes, the Sorting Hat and the sword that glittered with rubies on the shelf. Among everything that was, still is and will always be Dumbledore:
"Avada Kedavra!" I had shouted, in practice. I had used the curse many times before—the words were familiar and at the same time strangely numb. This time, they were to be used on my only friend.
"No Severus" Dumbledore had said after every failed attempt at killing the magical image of himself he had projected upon the wall "—you must say it with a hate that is unexplainable. You must conjure up an image so hated—so despised that even you yourself cannot stand to think of it."
I had grown frustrated and had taken a break, turning toward the benign man sitting behind his desk.
"How can I do this?" I asked him. "And how can you be so strong and watch me practice ending your life?"
He simply smiled softly, a look of pain and joy at the same time. "I do not fear death, Severus, merely the life unlived."
He was so strong and I was so inadequate to be the one to take his life. He deserved to die in a moment of glory—at the crux of the final battle against the Dark Lord, valiantly saving the lives of Potter and his friends. He did not simply deserve to wither and fade away at the hand of a man who the world would hate more then it already did.
Why must I be the one to-?
And then it came to me—my most hated entity ever. I whipped around and approached the image of Dumbledore with a furor that surprised even myself:
We both knew that it had worked as the image of the wizard finally stopped it's taunting and disappeared from the wall. Sickened by my own hatred, I crumbled to the ground and Dumbledore immediately took to my side. He crouched down beside me, one hand on my shoulder supporting me and keeping me from falling back. Waves of nausea crashed over me and I was still quivering with a loathing so intense that I felt physically ill.
That was the loathing I would need to make the killing blow.
"What were you thinking of Severus?" He asked softly after a minute had passed.
Sweat trickled off of my brow and I turned to look into his benevolent face.
I had been ready, I had been prepared for the moment when it came. It took months and months of practice and counseling with the help of Dumbledore. I sometimes wondered if our sessions made him depressed or worried, but he showed no signs of fallibility. Despite my vain attempts to pursuade him to let me die instead of him, he continued on, stoic as always. He made me as physically and emotionally ready for the moment as I could possibly be.
And then the day came when the Death Eaters made their way into Hogwarts.
And I saw Draco run up the tower, knowing full well that this would be the moment.
And I ran after him, charging up the stairs, my cloaks billowing behind me.
And I came in the room, pushing everyone back and away from the weakened man.
And I pulled out my wand, closing my heart and my mind and my soul.
And then I paused when I stood there, watching my only friend near death already--seeing him plead--hearing him beg me to continue with the plan...
When I saw him—stoic fear in his eyes—acceptance as well--begging--pleading with me to end his life so that others could live...
When I saw him there…
If they only knew.
"If" was a word of weakness, of uncertainty. It showed no strength or decision in life. The word 'if' was indeed a superlative of indecision, a way of getting out of conditions that one found unsavory to personal or public obligation. "If" was the sign of an incomplete wizard, one who couldn't make decisions or commit to anything they promised "If" was the friend of a coward and nothing more.
Dumbledore always had said that to me whenever I was uncertain if I could go on living the double life of a double, triple, quadruple crosser—a spy for a spy for a spy for a spy. That's what I am. I am nothing more than a contradiction—a man—a Prince—
But they will not call me that.
They will call me a killer.
They will call me a demon—a devil. They will call me inhumane and evil. However, these are names that I am not unaccustomed to. I have heard them all before, many times when I was young and suffering the abusive blows of my father, or the taunts of the children in school. These are all names that I know, accept and even deserve. All except one:
I am not a coward. I am not a faceless, nameless person who shrinks away from duty and from promises. It pains me deeply that some will see me that way.
If only they knew.
I am not a coward, despite what they will say. A coward would have turned his back on a promise—on a different type of Unbreakable Vow with his only friend in the world. The vow of friendship and duty. A coward would have not been able to make the decision to follow through with the plan, no matter how deeply it wounded him. A coward would have taken his own life—taken the easy way out of the situation instead of being forced to kill the only person in their entire life who trusted them.
I am not a coward.
And yet, I wish I was.
I wish I had been able to be a coward at that moment and in a valiant move, take my own life for his. But I had made the promise—I had made the Vow to myself, to Narcissa and above all, to Dumbledore that I would follow through with the plan. I had to.
I had to.
And so I did.
The breeze blows softly now and I cross my arms and my heart, shielding myself from the effects of the cool wind. I turn back towards Draco, who still slumbers noiselessly in the light of the fire.
The Dark Lord will want answers from you in the morning. You will be punished for your weakness as I will be exalted for mine. But while the Dark Lord praises me and brings me even closer than I already am to him, inside I will be weeping. But my grief will never be able to be relieved, as with yours. You can cry. I cannot.
Curse you, Severus.
I turn back toward the stars and as I am watching them, feel something cold and smooth sliding down my cheek. I will not acknowledge that they are tears. I will not. Tears are for the weak and I am not weak. Weak men are cowards and I am not a coward.
I am not.
I must be strong not only for Draco….not only for the Order…not only for what is good in the world…not only because I am completely alone…but for Dumbledore.
He did not want me to mourn his death, as he told me while he was still alive. He wanted me to rejoice once he left the mortal realm and transformed into something that even he himself could never comprehend. He has succeeded, planting the seeds of goodness in the Order, in his followers and in Potter. He will never be completely gone from Hogwarts, his influence will remain there beyond the confines of time. Dumbledore and Hogwarts will forever be intwined. He has powerful allies and they will bring the Dark Lord crashing down. He has loyal followers and people who love him.
The howl of the wind brings the song of the phoenix to a climatic echo over the valley.
I loved him as a friend and as a brother. As a father. As a protector. As the one person in the world who I could trust and who trusted me in return. In that moment of my life—the moment he swore he would never speak of to anyone else—the moment when I confessed my sins as a Death Eater and turned back toward the light—he become the only person in the world who I could ever call a friend. The one person in the world who I could count on no matter what. No one could have loved him more than I.
"And I swear…no one has ever trusted me…no one has ever believed in me…from my parents ... to the other children I went to school with…to the Death Eaters...to the Dark Lord himself. No one. Please…sir……trust me now. I need your help—I want to get out of this mess…I want to fight for the right side…Please…"
A moment's silence filled the room as I watched him contemplate.
"I trust you Severus." He said softly, looking at my broken form pleading in front of him "I trust you."
And for the first time ever, I had someone look down upon me with nothing but kindness in their eyes.
That was the only other moment in my life when I cried.
But now the tears flow freely again with only the sound of the phoenix's lament in the background, the music for my sorrow. A cold wind whips over the rocks and the cave, bringing the song closer than before. And as I stand there, numb as the wind blows my black robes around my body, all I can think about it that the sad song of the phoenix is the song of my life. Of the life of a boy. Of a Death Eater. Of a member of the Order. Of a double-triple-quadruple crosser. Of an outcast. Of a betrayer.
Of a murderer.
Of a man named Severus Snape.
If they only knew.
If they only knew what it was like to have to kill their best friend, their confidante, their savior, their brother, the one person in the world who unconditionally trusted them for reasons that they could never even begin to delve into. If they only knew what it was like to look into his eyes and feel pity and sorrow and remorse—if they only knew the self-loathing and the hatred and the pain and the solitude.
If only they knew.
The tears are flowing freely now, and I sink to my knees.
"Forgive me." I whisper to the song of the phoenix and the wind and the night and the stars. It is not a plea—it is a prayer. A prayer to a man who was greater than I could ever imagine. A prayer to a man whose last moments will haunt me forever. For I am the cause of the end of the life of the greatest wizard that ever lived on the face of the earth.
Me. Severus Snape. The Half Blood Prince.
If they only knew…
Then they would be me.
And then the song of the phoenix stops, leaving me in complete solitude with only the rising sun and the breath of the boy with the crackle of the fire and the wind and myself.
Come morning, they will call me many things
But I am not a coward.
If only they knew.
Author's End Note: Thanks for reading! If you review, I'll make Snape hand deliver chocolate cupcakes to your house :D