The morning dawned blood red. It is a sight I don't think I shall ever forget. Deep, velvet crimson, like the stains on the walls in the Transfiguration corridor. Like the colour of the banners that hang above the Gryffindor table, reminding every one of us that we must never allow ourselves to forget today.
'Today, we have experienced a horrible and frightening thing.'
Dumbledore gazes around at as all, trying to catch our eyes. His blue eyes haven't got the twinkle they usually do when he asks me if I would like sweets. They are grey and hard, like two chips of ice. When my turn comes, I look away. I don't see why I have to be here anyway. This hasn't got anything to do with me, or Lucius. Or Narcissa. Not even Bellatrix this time. This is Gryffindor's day. This is Gryffindor's fault.
'Five students now are lost to us forever.'
It is all I can do to stop myself snorting. As if we don't know what happened. As if anyone could have forgotten already.
This morning was normal, as far as I knew. All I wanted was to eat my breakfast, and those stupid, useless Gryffindor sods had to upset the entire day. No kippers or toast or even porridge. No eggs, no rashers. Five bodies wrapped in white sheets are resting in the hospital wing. Lucius says two of them were burned. There's breakfast for you; it's Eggs and Soldiers today.
' . . . will continue to honour the courage shown by . . . .'
Funny, that. If they were Ravenclaws, would he have spoken of their high marks? And what of Slytherin? Ambition? Lack of loyalty?
But, they were Gryffindor. Janice Bernham told him she was sorry before he killed her, for not having been able to help sort out whatever problems led him to this. Dumbledore says this is bravery and moral fibre, and all the Gryffindors sob for poor, tragic Janice. I think this is stupid. She's dead, isn't she? They're all dead --- all five of them. Janice Bernham, Peter Bellum, Frank Stuart, Jacoby Smith, Nicolas Grey.
There's Norbert Oswel sitting in the corner, sulking, no doubt. He wanted to die as well, but they wouldn't let him. I can't blame him, though, can I? Death would have been a well lot better than life in Azkaban. He's a third year, Oswel is. Look at the way his brown eyes widen, taking in the room. His lips are thin with worry, or is it just that he is bitter at not being dead? His skin is white as the milk I ought to have had for my breakfast this morning. The one that never happened, because Norbert Oswel, the sod, decided to kill five Gryffindors that probably would have died one day anyway. One first year, two second years, one fifth, and one fourth. Three boys and two girls. Three British, one Irish, one Scottish.
All of them Mudbloods.
Lucius says they had it coming, and the rest of us agree. I know by his smirk that he is reading my thoughts. Half - Blood, Muggleborn --- what is the difference to someone as barmy as Oswel? Why is Oswel killing Mudbloods anyway? His own mother is a Muggle.
'This act has shocked and appalled both our school and the rest of the Wizarding community, but we can learn from this . . . .'
'My thoughts exactly,' Lucius whispers, 'Stop nutters like Oswel getting into Hogwarts, and we haven't got a problem anymore.'
The rest of us laugh, but I can't see where it's very amusing. Five bodies wrapped in sheets, and Dumbledore thinks we can learn from it. Five bodies lying on hospital beds, waiting for parents to come and claim them. Two are unrecognisable, but everyone knows who they are anyway: Norbert's best friends --- Janice Bernham and Frank Stuart. Burnt from head to toe, like rashers.
Nicolas Grey, the first year, was crying before he --- he was crying, and Norbert told him to belt up and be a brave Gryffindor. Nobody knows why he went for Grey, who was his number one fan in the Quidditch pitch. Always cheering, wasn't he?
His body didn't make much of a sound when it hit the floor. Just a bit of a thud. Sounds a bit like someone dropping their bag. Just a thud, and he was gone. Eyes wide open, tears on his cheeks, mouth opened to plead. The girls cry for him, and for Peter Bellum, who was almost as handsome as Black. He didn't make much of a sound either.
Bernham and Stuart screamed, but he burned them alive. Told them they were his very best mates, and he wanted to give them a proper funeral. Like the Trojans did with Achilles when he died. They screamed until McGonagall put out the flames, said they were sorry for Oswel, and died in the centre of the corridor, eyes bulging.
No one even cares about Jacoby. Nobody knew her, nobody mourns. Her parents were the first to come and claim her body.
Five sheets, five empty beds. Five empty spaces at breakfast.
' . . . to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again, whether it be in Hogwarts or anywhere else . . . .'
Oswel's not telling why he killed them. He says he sorry. Sorry he didn't die, sorry he took them. He stares around with pathetic brown eyes, hoping for Salazar only knows what. Forgiveness? Retribution in the form of a lightning bolt to strike him down? A Kiss?
The Gryffindors sob to one another and pretend to remember things about their house mates. Lucius leans down to me and hisses in my ear, 'Try anything even close to this, Snape, and I will personally murder you.'
I nod, because I don't know what else to do. I would never try something so thoughtless. I would never risk Azkaban or burn my friends. Merlin knows I haven't got many of them as it is.
Lucius is not finished with me yet; he grabs a fistful of my robes and pulls me close. 'These things take much more planning than that Gryffindor dolt put into it. Had he waited for breakfast, he could have killed more than a mere five Mudbloods.'
I think I am supposed to laugh, but the sound dies in my throat. It doesn't matter anyway, because Lucius is scanning the hall now. He points out Potter and Black, and they don't look upset at all. Potter with his messy hair, Black with that awful smirk. The one that sneaks across his face when he is planning something
horrible for me.
If I don't look away soon, they will catch me watching. But, that's all I can do, is watch. If I listen to Dumbledore, Lucius and the others will think I've gone barmy. There is no food to make up for the breakfast we missed. I don't want to think about the bodies of those five, the way their faces looked under the early morning sun as it poured through the windows on the second floor. I don't want to remember the parents who trickled in slowly, looking as if they had just been doused in milk. White - faced and red - eyed. I don't want to wonder if my own mother would have looked the same, had it been me. My mother who never wanted me, who had me too late in life to even care. Would she have looked as Oswel's mother did, as if her entire world had just fell apart before her very eyes?
'All right, Snivellus?' Potter mouths to me, ruffling his hair. Somehow, they have managed to get themselves toast and jam. My mouth waters for food. Crispy, brown toast and strawberry jam. 'Planning on following Oswel and doing yourself in? Take Malfoy with you, won't you?'
Lucius says ignore them, but I can't. It's not my fault any of this happened. I shouldn't be sitting here.
'. . . To live on, but to always remember . . . .'
Narcissa tells me show them. Hex them. Show them Oswel, Snape. Somehow, it seems morbid to even so much as think that on a morning like this. Potter's body wrapped in a white sheet, sitting on a hospital bed while his mother weeps over it.
' . . . forever in our minds . . . .'
I don't belong here. I don't care about some dead Gryffindors and the nutter who did them in.
' . . . Janice Bernham, Peter Bellum, Frank Stuart, Jacoby Smith, and Nicolas Grey. forever may they rest in peace, loved by their friends and their family, remembered by all.'
Show them Oswel, Severus. Wipe the smile off their bloody face. Show them Oswel.
They're grinning like the twats they are and Dumbledore is waffling on, trying to be sentimental. They're whispering about the killing spree I'll go on now, and I almost want to prove them right. I want to show them Oswel.
'Would anyone like to share their thoughts? Perhaps a memory of their house mates?'
Yeah, I'd like to share a bit. I'd like to share about how I don't care they're dead. I don't care and I never will. They're a bunch of Gryffindors who couldn't cast a Shield Charm properly. Why should I mourn that? Why should I mourn the five who were too thick to see what a nutter Norbert Oswel was?
I'm moving so fast, I almost don't hear the banners tearing from over Gryffindor. I nearly miss the sight of them falling onto the table, covering the students in red and gold. Red like the sunrise, like the blood Bernham spilt when she was burnt. Blood red and blaring gold. Like the light through the window, the one that shone on their faces when McGonagall carted them off to the hospital wing. Like the ring Oswel wears on his finger, the one he twists nervously while Dumbledore is speaking.
They've all stopped now, and they're staring at me. Evans looks like she is about to cry. She turns her green eyes on me, brimming with unshed tears. Next minute, I'm walking out of the hall. Why wait until the end? They'll all say the same thing, anyway. They don't want to remember the charred bodies and sombre faces, the wide, staring eyes. They don't want to think of the corpses in the hospital wing, but rather, the people that used to be. The people that will never come back, like my brother who died as a baby and my grandmother who died an old woman. Like the Muggles Lucius killed over the summer holiday.
There is a book in the library that has a photograph of every person who has ever come to this school. My grandmother is one of them. Norbert Oswel and the students they are taking to calling his 'victims' are in that book. Lucius and Narcissa and Bellatrix are in that book. My mother, who would be the only one with clear eyes and a strong voice had it been me that died, is in that book.
'Snape? Snape --- where the hell do you think you're going?
Anywhere but that hall. Anywhere but the hospital wing.
I shrug and leave Lucius to stand, dumbstruck, for the first time in his life.
'To the library.'