The Letter in the Drawer
By EmptyWord

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Press, Allen & Unwin, Raincoast Books, and others I may have missed. I have no claims on Harry Potter or any of its characters. Just fooling around.
Summary: Hidden within a locked drawer lay an innocuous cream-colored letter, its edges curled with age, as though it had been frequently fingered. When the drawer was opened at last, it revealed the words Severus Snape had meant to say but never could. Written for the Snape-After-DH Fest on LJ.
Warning: One swear, angst, and stuffy writing. Arguably OOC depending on interpretation.

16 October 1981

Please, Lily –

Please do not burn this letter just yet. Please read these words in their entirety before you decide to shred them as I have our friendship. I am driven to my knees with this request and would evoke the one word you have always wished to hear from me. Please, one chance more, Lily.

If you have done me the honor of reading on, then I will come directly to the point with no puttering around. The Dark Lord is after your son, and you must go into hiding. There is no question about this, Lily; the matter is absolute. The Dark Lord has heard from a definitively reliable source that either your son or the Longbottom heir has been prophesied to defeat him, and perhaps because your son is a half-blood like himself, he has decided to target you. I cannot be sure of the exact date he plans his attack, but he has always had a certain fondness for All Soul's Eve. You must act immediately to secure yourself and your family.

I'm sure I do not need to impress upon you the grave peril it means to have the Dark Lord after you, and you must know that I would not lie to you about this. You have heard the rumors, I'm sure, and I will now admit, for your eyes only, that I am indeed a Death Eater and in a position to intimately know the Dark Lord's plans. You must burn this missive after you have finished and swear not to repeat these words to a single soul.

And no, Lily, it was not your fault; you are not and have never been my keeper. And yes, I am sorry; I was foolish and reckless and very blind, qualities I have always despised in others, as you know. There need be no elaboration on this point. To answer your question, five years, four months, and seven days. They have not been the proudest of my life, but then I would be hard pressed to choose any day I could be reasonably proud of having lived.

Don't chew your lip, Lily. And you're wrinkling the paper. I assure you, you bear responsibility for none of it. I would tell you who to blame, but I fear you would Incendio this letter on the spot. You've always loved those mischief mongers more than they deserve, and you have never allowed a single word against the Headmaster.

And now that I've riled you, I'm sure you'll agree that every choice I have ever made has been mine alone.

It's too much to ask for your forgiveness, and I suppose it's also too much to ask that you waste your pity elsewhere, but I will ask that you not take up arms on my behalf. Do not misunderstand me. I recognize that I have ruined our friendship beyond repair, and I would never expect you to continue standing by me, but I am also very well aware of the noble and loyal streak that is as inherent to your nature as anger and vengeance are to mine. For all the bad air between us, you would still seek to help and I urge you to desist. There are many aberrations in life that cannot be fixed, and if I happen to be less deviant than most, I have long since laid bare my well of second chances. I'm a bloody Death Eater; one does not escape that unless through death itself. You must learn when to cut your losses, Lily.

Besides which, I already have a plan of my own, which seems increasingly advantageous. The clandestine Order is in need of information, and I am in the precarious position to provide for that need; Dumbledore could not refuse such a gift, and if it would ease your burdens, I would not hesitate to offer my service – or servitude, as it were. I do not delude myself into thinking it enough recompense of course, but it is the best I can think of for a situation such as my present one.

It would be fictitious of me to say I do not think of you, even now, after all these years of alienation that has taken me, finally, from the world you inhabit into one more suited for my own kind. I try not to; I recognize an unhealthy, unprofitable practice when I am presented with one, and unrequited longing is one of the worst. Ridiculous hopes and maudlin dreams are not for Slytherins. But for all that, I find myself on occasion inadvertently thinking of the future with impossible hope flushing my skin, and it takes me repeated self-reminders that you are married already to James Potter and happy with your lot before I am capable of calming myself. It is an altogether repugnant task. Why I should need to convince myself every bridge – that bridge – is long since burned, I cannot begin to fathom.

If you were to read this letter, you would tell me that hope is what ultimately drives the world onward, that it is the most beautiful and most powerful gift I could ever possess. Once, I would not have disagreed with you for hope that you might look in my direction with something more than acceptance in your eyes. Now, I find myself free to tell you that hope – this magical force you worship – is little more than a thousand shackles that bind and constrain and prevent escape into blissful oblivion. In the right hands, I will grant you, hope may be wielded powerfully, even beautifully, and you had such hands. My own, however, have never been properly equipped for such goodness.

All these are absurd and self-indulgent sentiments that I cannot afford, that I can hardly abide, but if I am brutally honest, they strangle me despite myself. Somehow, it's nigh impossible to forget the freely given laughter in your eyes that makes me seem a little less vile.

But I know better than to hope. Not for me, never for me. It is enough that you remain alive and untainted.

Yours in life and death,

Severus Tobias Snape

September 10, 2007