:: a few words:: This story follows Severus Snape throughout Deathly Hallows. If you still haven't finished it, here's your fair warning: spoilers abound. This fic was and is being written for a challenge where you have to choose a music album and write fanfics for each song. I chose My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. This chapter hops through time a lot, so anything in the present is happening real-time, while past tense sections are memories. Enjoy!

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His Black Parade

I. Stirrings at Spinner's End :: The End.

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He rather expects that it's going to end tragically. He controls all movement of information, he is master of the game, and he knows that one fault, one misstep on his part might result in disaster, defeat, or death. Most probably his own.

But that's unsurprising, he thinks, he's gotten used to that. Fatality is now just another facet of his job: to take over as the man behind the curtain, pulling the switches and leaving the clues behind now that Dumbledore's gone, risking life and limb for one futile hope. Wasn't this exactly what he'd signed on for when he bargained with the man all that time ago, saying that he'd do anything-- anything to save her?

He watches his soon-to-be-late coworker as she revolves about the ceiling, and lets the memory sear itself into his mind. Another day, another death.

It's just one more person that he wasn't quite able to to save.

--+--

"Sev, what'll they make us do when we get there, do you think?"

Severus Snape shrugged, frowning, and wished that his mother had been a bit more forthcoming with information pertaining to his new school. She'd only just told him about the barrier being enchanted yesterday, and he'd had to rush off and inform Lily about it so she wouldn't be surprised when they went the next day to catch the Hogwarts Express together. He'd gotten a skinned knee from falling down on the way, running too quickly, but the impressed look on Lily's face when he'd informed her about the magic barrier made it worth it.

"I don't know. Probably Sort us first."

"Oh...so that's the thing with the Houses, right?" Lily asked, uncertain more from nerves than forgetfulness. "What are they called again?"

"Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin." He smiled shyly. "Slytherin's my favorite."

He had the feeling that she was probably going to ask why, but the wall between platforms nine and ten was fast approaching and he'd need to explain how to cross it.

Lily's parents had been very kind and had offered to give Severus a ride to King's Cross so that he could catch the train with their daughter. His own mother had been unable to see him off, which bothered him and left a rather unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach, but also made it absolutely imperative that he remember how to get them across. They didn't want to miss the Hogwarts Express: he could see Lily fretting despite her brave facade, and he promised himself he wouldn't let her down. Getting two Muggles and their other, non-magical daughter across would be difficult, but he'd have to manage. After all, Lily was counting on him, wasn't she?

He stepped forward, and turned to Lily's parents.

"Alright, Mr. and Mrs. Evans, there's a little trick we've go to do in order to get to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters..."

A few minutes later, cart in one hand, Lily's clasped tightly in the other, he was standing in front of the barrier, his heart beating a little too quickly against his ribs. It wasn't that he didn't think he could get through the solid stone wall-- he'd done the crossing perfectly with the Evanses and Lily's sister moments before, and had instructed them to wait for him there as he came back with their other daughter--it was just...

It was just so stupid. Why was he even worrying about this? He should just run along through with her and be done with it.

But try as he might to persuade his feet to move, the thought, that irrepressible doubt, held him and he remained rooted to the spot.

"What's wrong, Sev? Is there still something else we need to do?" Piercing green eyes clouded with a hint of dark apprehension peered at him cautiously, not wanting to interrupt a wizard at work, but at the same time needing to know what was going on, desperate in their uncertainty.

Severus sighed, giving in at last.

"You'll still be my friend, right? Even after we go through?"

Lily didn't say anything, either because she didn't know what to say, or because she was too shocked at the question. Which was good, because everything Severus had been holding in all day bubbled out right there.

"I mean, everything will change once we cross. I've been telling you stories about this, but now it's going to be the real thing. You'll love it, I know, it's just..." Here he had to look away. "There'll be lots of other people there who are much better at magic than I am and know much more about Hogwarts than I do, and you'll probably like them more and--"

"Sev."

Turning back to her, he saw that she was giving him a disapproving look, although it wasn't a very good one: she was struggling to squash a smile that kept poking through.

"I've been going mad for weeks, wondering what my courses are going to be, what my teachers will be like, whether I'll fit in, and I felt a little better all that time because I thought that you probably were going through the same thing. And now you tell me all you've been worried about is that I'll up and stop liking you as soon as we get there?"

Severus bit his lip, eyes glued to the ground, not wanting to own up to it, but not denying the assessment either.

Lily shook her head, laughing. "Of course I'll still be your friend." She was struck with a sudden inspiration. "I'll be your friend forever, how's that?"

The expression she received at that was one of the things that Lily Evans would remember for the rest of her life.

"Right." Severus brushed an errant strand of hair out of his sight, buying some time to compose himself and perhaps hide the fact that his face was bright red. "Your parents are going to start worrying pretty soon. Are you ready?"

"Always have been. What about you?"

He nodded, she flashed him a grin, and, hands locked together, they sped off to meet their train.

After teary good-byes from Mr. and Mrs. Evans, repeated promises to write, and finally settling themselves comfortably in an empty car, Severus began to explain about the different Houses, just as promised. That done, Lily begged him to teach her more about magic, so they busily thumbed through one of their new books trying to learn something beforehand, which they did not do very well. One of them did manage to shoot green sparks around for a bit, but in the excitement of this awe-inspiring achievement, neither one paid any attention to whose wand the sparks were issuing from. Later on, Severus introduced Lily to Chocolate Frogs, which she quickly became enamored of, and he spent the remainder of the ride telling her about the famous witches and wizards on the cards.

It was only until after they were halfway to Hogwarts and in deep conversation about Agrippa that he realized he hadn't even needed to pretend that the wall wasn't there when he'd entered Platform Nine and Three-Quarters that last time: all he'd been conscious of was her hand in his.

--+--

The meeting ends, and Snape makes his way back to Spinner's End. It's a slow march-- verging on the funereal, he thinks bitterly-- as the cobblestones click against his boots, echoing behind him against the walls like someone's following him. He knows that when he turns around there'll be no one, but that still doesn't stop him from adding another protective spell to the front door as his other magics part and uncoil enough for him to enter. Exhausted, he shrugs off his heavy black cloak and lays it on a chair.

He catches sight of himself in the hall mirror and pauses, for a moment unable to recognize the man staring back.

"Not looking too peachy these days, I see. Someone needs to cool it on the midnight outings."

Snape rolls his eyes. If that mirror hadn't been one of his mother's heirlooms, he would have smashed it long ago for its snark.

"Silence."

But the mirror knows by this time that it can get away with saying more. So, it does.

"Never a good sign, forgetting who you are. Lucky that I'm here to remind you that you're Severus Snape, wherever would you be without me?"

"Probably a lot better off."

He leaves the mirror protesting to itself as he walks into the dining room.

When he was younger, he'd hoped to be something impressive, but he hadn't expected to end up a professor. Not even a professor any more, not now. He'd had to turn in his resignation a week ago, and now he is Headmaster of a school that hates him, he's leading a covert rebellion behind the Dark Lord's back, while ostensibly being overthrown himself at the same time, and now, Merlin...now, he's gotten so far tangled up in this mess that he's even started to doubt...

The world reels. He steadies himself with a hand to his forehead, muttering a quick remedy under his breath, and turns to his kitchen.

"Fletcher."

The man on the kitchen threshold answers with tired yet abject obedience, as though his subconscious wearies of the layers of memory spells that have been lathered onto it. He walks stiffly, stands like a soldier at attention-- or a hexed corpse-- and awaits instruction. Apparently, he's been in the pantry for quite some time. The meeting had gone longer than predicted.

"No changes have been made to the plan since we last spoke, I presume?"

Fletcher shakes his head.

"No changes to the plan. All is well."

Severus Snape waves this remark off irritably; for all is not well, and hasn't been well for at least the past twenty years.

He briefs Fletcher about his role in the seven-Harry flight (which, being a remarkably brilliant plan, was something Snape was prodigiously proud of and had taken him quite a few sleepless nights to work out fully), and casts another Memory Charm on him. Snape is absolute rubbish at charms. He's been tempted to just forcefeed Fletcher a Forgetfulness Potion a few times, but even the Order in the sorry state it's in would be able to deduce what had happened and who had done it. They probably had already noticed that something was amiss with Fletcher, but it's too late in the game to change messengers now.

Cloaking himself with an invisibility enchantment--another one of his least favorite things to do--he Apparates away with Fletcher, leaving the confunded man to come to himself as he returns home from some deserted stretch out yonder.

For every memory alteration, protection spell, or minor magic he casts, it conjures up memories of all the things that she helped him with all those years ago. Even in death, Lily Evans saves him with her impeccable capacity for Charms.

"No, Sev, you've got to hold your wand this way. Look, I'll show you..."

Vision going blurry, he slumps back against the couch and bites back a sob. Why must everything he does remind him of her? Hasn't he suffered enough, going though regret after regret in his mind, locking away his most cherished memories before they escape to haunt him? Nights dissolve into a veil of unreachable ghosts and inescapable sorrows, days stretch onward without end, and, immutable, he presses on.

The drums strike up in the distance. And somewhere, the Parade begins.