The Redemption of Bad Blood

The pain was supposed to go away, it was supposed to go away, wasn't it, wasn't it supposed to go away, away, when he left the land of the living? Right? He could still feel it, why could he feel it, how could it happen that the pain would not stop? He let out a cry, a helpless little cry, a cry in a voice he did not recognize. Thus was his entry to the afterlife.

There were faces, mocking faces, he felt, and he couldn't understand their concern, not through the lancing pain of Nagini's venom. The venom was potent; if his mind wasn't such a blur and his throat wasn't such a whimpering pipe of nothing, if his neck wasn't serving to redden the grass beneath him, maybe he would have wished, idly, he'd been able to study the venom. But this was not clinical observation, this was real, and he hated it, so he curled up and shivered and let the memories come, because they were coming anyway.

A boy, a boy of eight, and then his mom, quiet and not his, not his to be with, always aloof, she sat in the chair, and they quietly ate and she taught him some spells. His mom's father, that tall, tall man with the scent known as Grandfather and the boots that clicked and grabbed attention, he paid attention, he did, he did, but he hated what his daughter had done. What she'd done was marry a Muggle, a Muggle, something Grandfather despised. He talked of Muggles, and of non-Muggles, and of a time when things would be better, when there weren't Muggles. Severus's father was a Muggle, yes, a Muggle, and though he wasn't fit for Mom, said Grandfather, Severus himself could find a place in their world.

Grandfather's spells, though, those were the good ones, the ones he would practice to his mother's blank stare. She did nothing to dissuade the man, the old, tall man. At least Severus was happy, not bothering her, not sad and lonely. Grandfather, he thought, loved him, loved him like his mother and his father didn't know enough to, didn't care enough to. And if Grandfather, too, did not actually love him, he could not tell, so, really, did it matter much at all?

Grandfather liked to hear of the new friends he was making, he wrote it in letters—but they weren't friends! He lied, he lied through a quill, with his tongue, through fingers and mouth and ink and lips. Grandfather either was oblivious or hid it well for Severus's own sake, for his pride. The reality, the unwritten truth, hurt.

Grandfather taught him the word mudblood, taught him the fun spells, taught him so much, told him, "Yes, yes, you're such a good boy, quick learner, sharp mind, never lose that. Some say brute force is the answer—Muggle ideas, they are, quite dated. Wizardry is everything, the future, that is—nothing not in magic will survive." He trusted Grandfather, even if sometimes then he saw that he was a tool, a tool, to shape and mold the future generations. Sometimes he thought he didn't mind, didn't mind at all. Let Grandfather use him, what was the harm?

Grandfather dead, Father gone, Mum inattentive. Good thing he had Hogwarts, really, except, it wasn't a good thing he had Hogwarts, was it? Hogwarts was a trap. Lily, really, Lily Evans, Lily with that red hair, like a flaming torch in the night sky, Lily with eyes green as new growth after a forest fire, Lily, Lily, Lily, it was she, Evans, Lily Evans, beautiful Lily Evans, who was his only hope. Home was a night sky, a barren wasteland. Hogwarts was cold and grey, except for Lily and the covers of books, the ones on the shelf, in the library, not the others, for the ones in his bag were secondhand, and therefore cold and grey too. He was a half-blood. He hated his life. He was sure everyone else hated his life too—except, of course, Lily, pretty Lily.

Not so bad, really, was it, though? Not really, not once he got into learning, really, really, into learning. He was a learning freak, a teen-aged workaholic. How could he not be? Knowledge was power and power was something worth seeing. He wasn't invisible, if he was, why could he see himself? It didn't matter Potter and Black didn't really need to study. He liked working for what he got, and he liked getting for what he worked, and he worked a lot. If any teachers were impressed, they didn't really say so. They probably hated trying to read his writing, so small, so cramped, so small and cramped like he was, small and cramped sometimes, all the time, sometimes like in the middle of the night when he would cry for no reason, no reason besides that he was Severus Snape, a half-blood, invisible, and on top of that very small and very cramped, and a workaholic.

The teasing got worse. He knew he was ugly, yes, knew it, knew it well, knew it so well, knew it so well it was as if his mind constantly placed a mirror in front of his face—and not like Narcissus, no, but like some cruel opposite. He hated his nose, wanted to break it, to defame it, deform it like the Headmaster's had been broken once. He hated his eyes, wanted to gouge them out, to blind them, to never open them again, to singe off his eyebrows and eyelashes, to dig jagged nails into his lip, his own gaunt cheeks, to rip his cock to shreds, balls too, tear off his nipples one after the other, one after the other, one first, then the other, one first, until he was so much uglier, until he was so ugly that he could wear a sign around his neck and stumble blindly, a sign around his neck that read, "This is what I did to me, imagine what I could do to you." Maybe that way, he'd be safe, and maybe that way no one would consider what he'd looked like before. Maybe they would even think him being ugly at all was a choice, and that before he had been quite beautiful—maybe . . . but only if they themselves had been blinded too. Well fine, then. Looks weren't important.

But it wasn't just about his looks, was it? The Dark Arts was a problem, was it? Well it was a hobby! Wasn't quidditch a hobby, or bullying students, or skiving off classes, or sneaking to Hogsmeade, or ruffling hair to attract girls, or flirting, or . . . or . . . or asking Lily out? Apparently those hobbies were fine, and just because the Dark Arts were, well, dark, he, Snape, was suddenly inhuman. No. Not good enough, not good enough, he would not just roll over and die just because James Potter said so. In fact, that he often felt like just rolling over and dying was completely negated by the fact Potter wanted it. Potter got everything he wanted—but he would not have the one thing Snape could give him.

Lily. God, please, not . . . not his friendship with Lily. Mulciber tried to comfort him, but it was a dry, meaningless sort of interaction. He ached for his torch, as he could not see. There was no green on the land around him, and he wasn't sure there ever would be any again. Mulciber's hair wasn't red, it was chestnut. His eyes weren't green, they were hazel. Severus did not much enjoy, he thought to himself when he allowed it all to come swarming in his mind, did not much enjoy cheap imitations. His life was enough of a cheap imitation in and of itself.

A flash of fangs, a large, protective dog, with ears that fell when he came back out of the tunnel. A pitying Potter, a "savior" of Slytherins, a boy who he then owed a life debt to. Before then, he didn't owe anyone anything. Sirius Black, the menace, tries to kill him, and now he owes a life debt? Was there no justice left at all? He wasn't sure, didn't know for sure what justice meant anymore—"save Lupin" by letting Black go free? His own life was worth so little? Well, then, he finally understood, he did indeed.

Another year, another walk to King's Cross, another lonely ride among peers he could not open up to. Things hadn't cooled down much when he saw the marauders again. Apparently the life debt gave perfect Potter license to keep hounding him. His wins were now few and far between. Sometimes he wished Potter would kill him. That way he wouldn't actually have to roll over. He wouldn't have to submit. Passivity was, surely, surely, a wiser option. One could not tease another about passivity, only submission. The only ones he would submit to were pureblooded Slytherins, folks who knew a thing or two, knew where they were going, knew what was best for everyone, for themselves, for no one, it didn't matter, did it, what they knew, just that it was known.

He created spells. Instead of talking about his feelings, without Lily he created spells. Some were dark. One in particular was lethal. Sectumsempra. It came to him in a dream, a lovely, wicked fantasy of blood that waved through the air like the trail a fairy flew, reddening a meaningless void of a room, a void of a person—the person was faceless, nameless, and he did not much care who it was. They did not make a sound, they were submissive. Their submission led to their death, not the spell. It wasn't an evil spell, really . . . if one did the counter before death came. He wrote in the book, "Sectumsempra! For enemies."

He closed himself in the cubicle, in the loo. He sat on the bowl and drew his wand. Harsh, angry, desperate breathing died into a detached calm, and the wand skated over his skin as it did its work. He watched with a sort of pleased glint in his tearfully dripping eyes. He relaxed and observed, unreal fascination drawing him forward. He was healing himself, healing his insides. The hurt he wasn't sure he could still reach was utterly, utterly reachable. He sighed contentedly as he said the counter spell. He vanished the blood that had dribbled to the floor. He was grateful for the dream, the Sectumsempra vision. He found his greatest enemy, most worthy of the spell, was himself.

Acceptance, usage—tool once more, Grandfather would be proud, right? The Dark Lord, Voldemort, You-Know-Who, all titles for the same great entity. An entity it was hard to feel uneasy while submitting to. Very hard.

Regret! Regret. Remorse like nothing else, a wave, another, a dozen, a gross, a tsunami, so much water and nothing, nothing there to quench thirst, to put out the fire within oneself. Bowing down to men with broken noses—Severus wanted one, once. The man is cold at first, and it kills Severus inside, for a good while. More of him dies than he thought was there to begin with. What had he been doing, been thinking the last who-knows-how-many years?

And then the crushing reality of, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, such things are not supposed to happen. Baby left to fend for itself—well, Severus's parents didn't help him much, did they? He brushes off these thoughts rather soon—James Potter looking, for once, not at all arrogant, just blank and empty and dead, and then Lily, his Lily, the only thing he really treasured on earth, dead, marking her own grave like the flower that was her namesake did so well. There were moments in which he was so bitter, the taste of words in his mouth so vile, that the sarcasm no longer suited him. Her death was the ultimate example of such an occurrence.

Spying. Spying, with no heart anymore, hadn't it, hadn't it, hadn't it fallen into the coffin with her? If not, where had it been, the cowardly wretch? If he hadn't been able to feel it beating in his chest when he pressed a hand there, he would have thought that, really, perhaps it did leave him, leave him just like she did, because, really, if it was gone it would have been her who had taken it.

But he didn't really mind. Having a heart was not a good thing, not in the Dark Lord's ranks. She could have it, she could take it, couldn't she come back just now and rip out his heart for him? He would even submit, not just passively accept the loss of the organ. She had the key to his heart, she could unlock it from his chest, she could even use a crowbar and pry it out of him, anything, so long as she took it for he did not want it anymore. He sat in his dungeon, potion master of a grayscale nothing, and he used Sectumsempra to color the stone. He forgot to clean it up sometimes, but that didn't matter. One instance was in the potions classroom and for all anyone knew, it was just a spill, an outpouring of some jar and not, instead, the outpouring of his most deep-set emotions. As for the other instance(s), he remembered, but if he hadn't no one ever would have paid it any mind. He had no visitors, wanted no visitors (usually), would get no visitors, and it might have been for the best. Although, even if, perhaps, someone had come in and seen the stone that would have sported a dried spot of blood, he had the suspicion that, like he himself, his blood was quite invisible.

Suddenly . . . his blood was invisible. He looked at his hands, the grass near him, and saw nothing. And . . . where had the pain gone?

"Ah, there you are, Sev." A hand reached down and helped him stand up, knees still shaky from the pain he had been enduring when he first came in. Green eyes glimmered like nothing he'd ever seen before, or, maybe that wasn't true, as he'd seen these green eyes before, yes, and he let out a breath almost as if he'd been winded when his gaze caught hers.

"Alright?" asked James Potter. And he actually looked, somehow, he had no idea how, he somehow, somehow looked, somewhat, mostly, just moderately, in a friendly sort of fashion, looked, well, looked, yes, concerned. For Snivellus Snape.

There was the sheepish glance of Sirius Black not far behind James, Remus and Tonks and Moody all there as well, Remus looking well-rested and chipper, Tonks grinning in her manner, Moody fixed and whole.

Regulus Black stepped forward toward the Potters and pushed between them in a very Sirius/Regulus manner, looked at him, then stepped back as if unsure.

And then his view of Regulus was interrupted and arms flew around him, startling him. "Group hug!" was the damning cry. Lily Potter's voice rang sweetly through the air of the clearing and into his ears, and he didn't quite register the meaning behind them until it was—well, too late was an understatement.

More arms were around him, her husband's, and then a few more joined, the inheritable Black laughter sounding. Remus rolled his eyes and stepped forward, though Tonks broke right into a run, the silly girl. Moody looked almost as stunned as Snape, but stayed put, offering a shrug, and the knowing gaze of an Albus Dumbledore who finally cared fell upon him and he was finally home.

He had no more need to cast a Sectumsempra, not now, not ever. Here there may have been rivals, but there were, he had no doubt, no enemies to be seen.