Prologue

The nightmares began again. Green flashes illuminated the dark sky. Flames licked the wooden walls, filling the heavens with sparks, and billowing, choking smoke. The stench of spellfire clung to the crisp night air. Assorted images from a variety of events blended together to create a new and even more horrific dream than the last. In this, a small, dark-eyed boy was violently flung across a crowded room of blank-faced people while a green-eyed boy cried helplessly in his crib; no one moved to help either. Reflections of an Italian, stone cottage and a wooden, English Tudor merged to create a stone-faced Tudor crumbling to the flames. Wisps of filthy, greasy air drew upward and outward from the ruins, an essence of pure evil escaping the disaster.

The anger and pain was overwhelming, and I gasped as my eyes shot open, and I struggled to breathe. My heart pounded in my ears as sweat trickled from my forehead, soaking into the pillow. I rolled onto my back and stared at the dull ceiling of my dorm room, trying to control my breathing. I hated the thought of having to take a Dreamless Sleep Potion again, but if the nightmares persisted, I may not have a choice.

It was right before dawn, and the grey of the night was giving itself to slivers of the rising sun that could be seen casting lines around the window's edge. If I went back to sleep now, the dream would only continue. I knew that from experience, so I lay there in the grey November dawn, gathering my resolve to get through another day.

The war had been over for just over a year. Voldemort was gone, and life was becoming comfortable once again, a comfort that had not been felt for many years. People hailed the miraculous survival of a small child and were peacefully lulled into a sense of complacency. But, there were still aspects of life that were difficult. Things had not gone as planned. Mistakes had been made, and lives had been lost or changed forever. Blame was issued, and guilt and betrayal were felt. And, we all had a hand in it.

Severus had joined the Hogwarts' staff as designed, strongly requesting the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, knowing that another fight would be imminent. But, Albus felt that his desire for revenge was too great and feared that it might hinder the efforts of the Order. He was given the post of Potions Master instead, an assignment that no one would question.

But, Severus was unhappy, dissatisfied with the way things were playing out. The pull from both sides was overwhelming at times, and he became consumed with anger and began to close himself off. He sought any excuse to formulate his own plan.

An opportunity arose, that previous fall, during an applicant's interview for a teaching position at the Hog's Head Inn. Severus had been drowning himself in Firewhiskey when he saw Albus furtively arrive. Suspicious, he followed the Headmaster upstairs and listened at the keyhole, ashamed at lowering himself to such actions, but his heart pounding wildly at the information. This could be what he needed to lure the Dark Lord into drastic action. Little did he realize, or care, that the plan would affect so many lives.

However, on the night that he had arranged to meet the Dark Lord and relay the information, a prophecy, he had second thoughts, staying in his chambers at Hogwarts, staring into the darkness of his room. Breaking the solitary silence, a heavy knock sounded on his door, and Albus' anxious voice called out. Tragedy had struck, and they were needed immediately. Without thinking, Severus was on his feet and joined his mentor on the way to Godric's Hollow. Someone else had betrayed the Potters. It hadn't him after all.

By the time Albus and Severus arrived, the damage had been done. The upper floor of the two-story, English Tudor had one side blown out, James and Lily Potter were dead, and their son, Harry, had somehow, survived. Salt in Severus' wounds, his nemesis' son surviving when his own had perished not that long ago. The constriction in Severus' chest choked him.

In the chaos of the night, the essence of the Dark Lord lingered above the ruins; both Albus and Severus sensed it, and Severus' quickly began to track it, working to keep it away from the child, but it escaped. Albus took the child and placed it in the protective care of Hogwarts' grounds keeper who was instructed to take young Harry to a safe hiding place; a family bond being used as a safeguard. Albus would meet him there later. He had something else to do first.

As time passed, Severus felt the guilt of what he had intended to do. James Potter was not his friend, never had been, but Lily had been at one time, and the thought of the orphaned boy bothered his conscience. Callously, he admonished himself, squashing sentimental thoughts into nothing, using Occlumency as a shield to protect himself from his emotions. It wasn't his fault. Voldemort already knew. Someone else had betrayed them, and that blame was, surprisingly, cast on Sirius Black, James' best friend. Witnesses had seen Black fight and kill Peter Pettigrew following the attack on the Potters. Muggles had perished in the crossfire, and nothing but a finger was left of poor Peter. Black had been captured and sent to Azkaban, insanity setting in shortly thereafter.

Voldemort disappeared after that night, but Albus and Severus maintained that, although he may be gone, he wasn't dead. He would, some day, find a way to return, but the Wizard world was too preoccupied with celebration and renewed hopes for the future to listen. Albus and Severus finally turned silent, knowing that their roles would have to continue.

The Ministry spend months rounding up rogue Death Eaters and spent the following year trying them in the Wizengamot. Severus himself had been called on charges, and Albus stood by his side, defending him, revealing to all that, although Severus had admittedly been a Death Eater, he had turned spy for the Ministry: a horrible, double-edged sword. And, although his name had been cleared, his position had been exposed, and the life of a double agent took on a new dimension. His Slytherin mind quickly created a web of lies to hide his true allegiances. His demeanour turned even more foul as he struggled to stay alive, and Occlumency and his Reversal Glamour Charm became a way of life. There were still Death Eaters out there, many who were able to feign their innocence by claiming that they were under the Imperious Curse. He would never be safe.

My role would remain a secret…for now. But I, too, felt the guilt and pain and a strong desire for revenge.