Till Death Do Us Part

By: Airelle Vilka

Professor of Illusions

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Summary: It is Graduation Night at Hogwarts, and Severus Snape has a question to ask his friend…

Airelle Vilka couldn't stop smiling. Of course, it did not help that everyone else was crying. But hey, she was known for not crying. And aside from smiling, there was nothing else she could contort her face into.

From the Ravenclaw table, she could see clearly the sort of things happening at all the others, especially the Gryffindor table, the members of which had nearly all risen and were sobbing on each other's shoulders.

I suppose it helps to cry once in a while when you're being brave all the time, thought Airelle, watching Peter Pettigrew break out into literal hysterics on Remus Lupin's brand new robes. James Potter and Lily Evans could not take their gaze off each other. Airelle grinned. God, if Snape saw her actually smiling at his archenemy.

And speaking of Snape…

"Congratulations," said a voice from her left. The other Ravenclaws snorted visibly and tried very hard to carry on conversations with their friends. Airelle scowled. It was amazing what people would do when Snape was within a two-mile radius.

"Congratulations yourself," she replied and raised a cup of pumpkin juice to her friend. "It's not every day one of your classmates gets the highest Potions grades ever recorded."

Snape smirked; he could not help it. Potions was one of the hardest subjects to master, and he'd done it. At least that would get a person SOMEWHERE in life-- unlike Potter's precious Quidditch, he thought bitterly. "You weren't too bad, either, Airelle. Second highest Potions grade, highest Illusions and Charms grades."

Airelle grinned. "Yeah…but still, you owe part of your Potions mark to yours truly."

"Keep dreaming, Vilka," Snape replied. "So, where are those Ravenclaw friends of yours? Afraid of me like I carry the plague, as usual?"

"Remember, I told you, Sileah and Maxine left before Graduation… early start on that project they've been signed for in New Guinea and they--Snape!"

His head jerked back in her direction. He'd been looking somewhere towards the Slytherin table.

"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."

Airelle frowned. "What is with you lately, in any case?"

Snape looked up. "I do not know what you mean."

There was silence from both sides. Sparkles fell from the enchanted ceiling, landing on both of them for the last time as students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Graduation was done; Dumbledore had made his speech; awards had been given; it was over. Seven years…was really over.

Another minute passed; another minute closer to their departure from Hogwarts. The Hogwarts Express was waiting for them, Airelle knew, beyond the lake. To take them home. It should have been a happy time. Finally, an end to the rivalry between houses at Hogwarts. They'd be free, free to do what they wanted with their lives. So why wasn't she happy?

Snape's voice snapped her out of the reverie.

"Come outside," he said, but she barely heard him. This was it, no matter how much she'd tried to deny it. She had already bid farewell to all the teachers, her acquaintances, even shared a brief goodbye with some of the Gryffindors (when Snape wasn't looking). It really, truly was over.

Airelle stood up, leaning on the table, more out of uncertainty than of need. It was as if she was afraid she'd fall if she did not hold onto something. Snape motioned to her, and they walked out of the Great Hall, alone among the students hugging and crying, both with a blank expression embedded on their face. It was time to say their own goodbyes.

The sun had set in front of them as they walked on the lush early June grass near the lake. Somewhere far off, insects chirped in the Forbidden Forest. Airelle wouldn't look at it. She couldn't look anywhere but the ground without remembering…so much. Why did they have to do this? Could they not wait one more year to graduate? She had a feeling it would take that long to recuperate from the shock.

They stared out at the lake. Unless they decided to ever come back-- this would be the last time either of them would be seeing it. With a smile, Airelle remembered how they had first landed here, scared and wet from the wave created by the giant squid in the lake, about to start their first school year at Hogwarts. It sounded awfully cliché, but she could not believe it had been seven long years. Seven years of classes, talking, potions, pain, and friendship.

She glanced at Snape. He seemed to be lost in oblivion as well. I wonder if he shall miss the school, wondered Airelle as she looked at him. Aside from their strange friendship, the only friends Snape ever had were a gang of the Slytherin boys, the leader of whom was Lucius Malfoy. Airelle had never protested when Snape wished to, as Americans would put it, 'hang out' with them; her friend came and went on his own. But still, there was something disturbing, something she could not place, about Lucius. Snape had grown quiet every time Airelle had ever spoken of Malfoy or his friends. Since Airelle was not in Snape's house, she did not pry. If Snape wished to tell her something, he'd do so of his own accord. But still, that chilly feeling she had whenever Snape was in the company of Malfoy…

Airelle sighed. Now, it was too late to think about it in any case. The last she knew, Malfoy and his friends were moving away together somewhere, unspecified, to work on some project. Snape, who normally hated working with even one person, would definitely not join them.

"It is beautiful, hmm?" she asked Snape, hoping to draw out even a word from him. He'd been silent ever since they left the castle.

Snape nodded. Airelle frowned. He hadn't been talkative to begin with, but now he was as mute as a fish out of water. And this was not simple nostalgia or thought. Something was definitely--

"Airelle?"

Finally, she thought. "Yes?"

"I wish to ask you a question."

She found this a bit irregular. What could he possibly want to know?

"Certainly. What is it?"

Snape turned to face her, and there was an indescribable look in his eyes. She did not know what he was thinking.

Her friend looked around before continuing. There was no one around; everybody else had preferred to stay in the castle with his or her friends.

Airelle raised her eyebrows. "Snape? What's wrong?"

His eyes bore into hers, scrutinizing her… as if… as if she was being prepared--

Snape suddenly seemed to drop in front of her, and she jumped back.

"Geez! What are you, cra--"

But Airelle stopped dead in her sentence. Severus Snape was on -- but it was impossible -- he was… he was… on one knee… in front of her?!

"Snape… you're scaring me. Please get up."

His voice was clear. "I shall not, until you give me an answer to my question."

Her breath came in shallow gasps. Either she was hallucinating, or… or… "Ques… quest... question??"

"Yes. Will you--" He paused.

"Damn it! Out with it already!!" Her voice was breaking, and she had no idea why. Was her friend actually going to--

Snape stared at her. And then… he rolled up his sleeve.

Airelle's blood left her face.

"No… no…"

She backed away, shaking her head in disbelief, as a mother would had she found out her child was dead. "You're not…"

"I am," said Snape, wincing slightly at the Dark Mark that was burned into his arm. "And I want an answer. Will you-- join us?"

Airelle's short fingernails dug into her palm to stop her from hyperventilating. "You can't," she whispered. "Who are you, and what have you done to my friend?"

"I'm still Severus Snape, don't worry," he laughed. "Although something is different, you're right. No longer am I Severus Snape, the greasy-haired kid with friends the number of which he could count on one hand! No… with this mark, another Snape has been born, a Severus Snape with the strength of hundreds to support him, and the backing of the most powerful wizard in the world."

Airelle had gotten out of shock, and her black eyes now blazed. "You've joined…the Death Eaters?"

"That's correct."

And then, Airelle realized something. "Malfoy. It's Lucius Malfoy, isn't it… That dastardly, slimy git--"

"No, Airelle! He was the only person from Slytherin House who could see me for my true worth." Snape paused. "You're a Ravenclaw… you wouldn't understand."

By now, Airelle was not scared of the Dark Mark anymore. She was angry.

"Understand? Understand WHAT??" she exploded. "Greed? Corruption? Murder? That's what Voldemort is offering, isn't it? And just because Malfoy--"

Snape glared at her. "It wasn't because of Malfoy."

"Why the hell, then?"

He stared at her. Airelle had never cursed before. He had never seen her truly angry until now.

"Look around you!" he exclaimed, still on one knee. "For years, we have been laughed at – hell, I nearly died because of a stupid prank – and ridiculed! And don't tell me many of your Ravenclaw friends did not abandon you just because you were friends with me! They – Potter, Black, adored by the teachers, the leaders of tomorrow!! – bah! – have too much power and influence over us! Lord Voldemort offered me the power to fight back, and hell yes, I WILL fight back, for everything that has been done to me and to you!"

Airelle looked into his eyes, speechless. "I don't know you…"

"Airelle," he said, and his voice suddenly lowered to barely more than a whisper, "I thought no one outside Slytherin could understand how I felt. But you did. Amazing as it was, you stuck by me, every single time. You have never betrayed me."

"But you just have," she whispered, looking at the floor. She was a fool, deserving of this. Why couldn't she have seen it earlier? Revenge had always been one of her friend's qualities… but she never dreamed he'd take it to this level.

Snape ignored her comment. "Airelle, you and Lucius are my most trusted friends."

She smirked. What a trio. Airelle Vilka, Lucius Malfoy, and Severus Snape in between.

"He did not want me to reveal my decision to you, since you were Muggle-born… but I felt that I needed to ask you. Lord Voldemort has given me the power to give you everything I ever wanted. You shall never need anything, go hungry, or feel futile and worthless. How is that bad? Airelle, stand by me now, in my hardest hour."

There was a long silence, the duration of which neither of them really noticed.

And finally, Airelle spoke.

"You selfish bastard. You want the easy way out, and you drag me into it by playing on the friendship I have with you?"

"Airelle--"

"No." Her voice had broken, and she had to lower it down to a whisper. But she still continued to look into his eyes, those beautiful black eyes, a reflection of hers that she did not recognize anymore. "No, damn it, I'll keep speaking. I won't let you see me cry. Never. As your friend, I love you, more than you'll ever know, you bastard, and I hate you and myself for it."

"Airelle—"

"Yes! That's my name! Airelle Vilka, of Ravenclaw house, who doesn't understand a blasted thing about her friends! Is that it? I'll never join. Never. Do you hear me…" Her voice was the faintest whisper by now. "Never." And she just kept repeating the word.

His eyes darted in hers. "You really mean what you say."

She bit her lip. "Yes. I do."

Snape rose up; he had gotten his answer. Before Airelle could do anything else, he took out his wand from the inside of his robes, and pointed it at her heart.

"Lucius told me to kill you if you refused to join."

She stared at him, her hands at her sides. This was her friend, the one she shared a secret room with in the dungeons, the one with whom she had danced in a snowfall, the one with whom she did not need to speak to understand.

"Go ahead, then," she spat bitterly. "Do what Malfoy said. I've already lost something greater than my life tonight. But then, hell, what do I know? I'm not a Slytherin like you."

Snape opened his mouth, his eyes never off hers. And then, he lowered his wand.

"Malfoy shall never know I told you," he said. "Accio Nimbus!"

And at once, his broomstick soared to him from the Forbidden Forest and stopped directly between them.

"But if we ever meet again…" he began.

"We shall fight on different sides," she finished for him. Her lips were moving, but she looked like a deathly pale mannequin, robes swaying on a rigid, stiff body. "It shall truly be… till death do us part."

Snape mounted his broomstick. Airelle lowered her eyes and stared silently at the ground.

"What's wrong?" came Snape's embittered voice from somewhere, far away, where she could almost not hear it. "Are you afraid to look at me?"

She fought the urge, and succeeded. She did not raise her eyes.

"Yes. I am."

Airelle heard the gust of wind as the broom took off, rising high up, up into the clouds, and drifting away from the castle.

She could not hear any sound anymore. No noise from the Great Hall, no swish of wind, no stir of grass. It was only she, alone again.

And once she was sure of that, Airelle Vilka dropped on her knees, and buried herself in horrible, wrecking sobs -- a child who, at seventeen, had suddenly grown centuries older.

FINIS