Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment & Tweak
by Darth Stitch

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Just playing in JKR's sandbox.

Author's Notes/Spoilers: Amazingly, it's not slash. Subtext aplenty though. I prefer the Snarry kind - but that's me. Spoilers of the HBP variety.

I blame murasaki99 ENTIRELY for this. XP

With thanks to blueraven for beta:D

Severus Snape does not cry.

He tries hard to forget that there was ever a time when it was pitifully easy to make him burst into tears, when he was a tiny, twitchy little boy who cowered into his mother's skirts whenever his father flew into one of his drunken rages, when his peers made fun of his shabby clothes and his old, stained school things and his messy, oily hair and overlarge nose. He's learned to purge himself of his tears, to scream and stamp and lash back at each and every cruel word with his own vitriol, to return every blow landed, to trade hex for hex and being Slytherin, to plot his vengeance with careful cunning, so that it would reach his enemies and hit them when they least expected it, making it hurt the most, destroying them utterly.

He would not be "Snivellus Snape," backed into a corner, crying in impotent, powerless rage and pain. There was no point in wasting tears, because if there was one thing Severus Snape learned early in life, was that crying only let his enemies have the satisfaction that they had caused his pain and it only encouraged them to torment him all the more. He would not snivel, he would not whimper like a cowardly cur, no matter what that Potter boy called him.

He would not cry. Not now. Not ever again.

Rather, Severus ruthlessly purges himself of all emotion, of all weakness because it is now the time when he must be nothing less than strong. Albus Dumbledore is now dead. Dead by Snape's own hand. And the Dark Lord finally sees triumph within reach... with nothing more than a headstrong, reckless, foolhardy 17 year old boy to stop him.

Severus allows himself to think of nothing more than that, nothing more than Harry Potter's impending failure because he can not, by word or action or worse - in careless thought - allow the Dark Lord to believe anything else. Not when he has just proven without doubt his undying loyalty to Voldemort and to his cause.

Kill me then. Kill me like you killed him, you coward!

DON'T CALL ME COWARD!

In that moment when Harry Potter looked at him, screaming spell after spell, only to be knocked aside with his practiced hand, he saw not James, but Lily Evans, the way he'd been seeing her in all the years he'd taught her son, reminding him over and over again of his obligation. His debt, not the wizard's debt he once owed her detestable husband, but the one he owed to her, the one he would honor above all others, even over the Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa.

In the silence of his old house at Spinner's End, Severus finds himself laughing,

(weeping)

a harsh, ragged sound at the infernal irony of it all. Why does he persist in doing this, when there is no reward, no recognition, no affirmation, especially from the one, now the only one left, from where Severus wants it the most?

Harry looking at him with loathing and rage.

Lily's eyes in her son's face.

DON'T CALL ME COWARD!

Severus. Severus... please...

Albus Dumbledore, begging, at the very end. Not for his life. But for Draco. And Harry.

Harry.

No hero's burial for Severus Snape at the end, no tribute, no vindication - his secrets will be taken with him to his grave. Not for one moment does he entertain the notion that there will be any sort of life for him kissing the hem of Voldemort's robes and then, even now, he finds himself cherishing that old childish title - the Half Blood Prince - that secret figure of greatness and power that he's always longed to be - and Severus still has enough pride not to yield to a crazed tyrant whose blood is no better than Severus' own, Slytherin descendant or no.

"I'm not a coward," Severus whispers to no one in particular. "Not a coward. Not -- " And he stops, because he is not weeping. He does not cry.

A rustling from his fireplace makes him whirl around, wand in hand. He should be alone - Pettigrew is off fulfilling some mission for the Dark Lord while Draco is with his mother. Sooner or later he must stop coming to his hated Muggle father's house because he is quite sure that he will be found here sooner or later, quite possibly by Harry Potter, who now knows more than enough of Severus' past to track him down here at Spinner's End. He may openly deride the brat's intelligence and resourcefulness but he has never truly underestimated it.

The thought of being found here by Lily's son, who would probably come with murder and vengeance in his heart, is oddly comforting.

But instead of a vengeful teenage boy, Severus Snape is confronted by a bird.

It is rather a pitiful, sorry-looking excuse for a bird.

It also has no sense of self-preservation whatsoever, otherwise, why on earth would it be sitting in the ashes of someone's now-cold fireplace? Had it been anybody other than Severus there, the stupid bird would have been caught and roasting in a pan over said fireplace before one could say quidditch. Or nitwit. Or oddment. Blubber. Tweak.

Now why, Severus thinks irritably, did those particular bits of nonsense come to mind?

"You're quite fortunate that you're far too scrawny to cook." Severus tells the bird sternly as he lifts it out of the fireplace and puts it on the owl perch.

The bird ruffles its feathers, shaking off the ash and dirt. Hints of white emerge from the sooty feathers.

Snape sneezes and glares at the bird. "Do you mind!"

The bird trills in amusement, not sorry at all.

"I'm sure I can find some use for you in my potions store."

The bird trills again, this time a happy tune, something that sounds remarkably like an old Muggle song Severus' mother had loved. Something about being under one's skin.

"Daft bird," Severus tells it irritably and lights up the fireplace with a practiced flick of his wand.

The bird flies over to be closer to the flames, cooing and trilling with delight. Something about that nags at Severus' mind but he's not quite sure what that should be. The bird's motions shake more of the dust and soot from it, revealing feathers of purest white. It's as if the flames were feeding it, making it stronger somehow...

"A phoenix," Severus says in wonder and then he stops short and glares at the creature. He isn't an idiot and any wizard with half a working brain should have recognized a phoenix right off.

And this isn't Fawkes, the Headmaster's familiar, not with that plumage.

"What did you do to me? Why didn't you let me recognize you?" Severus demands of it.

The white phoenix has the grace to look suitably apologetic. It then flies over and perches on Severus' shoulder, happily preening his hair.

And then, Severus is suddenly, terribly sure exactly who the phoenix is. Or has been.

"You daft old coot," he whispers, reaching up to gently stroke the bird's head. His cheeks are quite wet and of course, they are not tears, not the ones he would have shed for the daffy old wizard who'd taken him in, given him his last chance, given him his last hope. Not tears for the man he murdered. They are not tears. No, not at all.

The phoenix regards Severus with both joy and forgiveness in its bright blue eyes and then blinks once, shedding a single tear.

Severus catches it in his palm.

It's a lemon drop.

- end -