Summary: Disgusted by Tobias Snape's cruelty and motivated by his love for Severus, Albus decides to take action. AD/SS slash.
Disclaimer: Not mine, etc. Not making money, etc. Please don't sue, etc.
Warnings: Slash, character death, suicide, HBP spoilers.
By Daphne Dunham
There's a close connection between death and love. It can be seen in history, literature, and religion—in Helen of Troy, Romeo and Juliet, and Jesus: lovely faces launching ships, daggers full of happiness, gods so loving the world…. The dual inevitabilities—fatality and passion—entwine, become one. Unavoidably. Inescapably. Predictably.
Albus acknowledges this, knows this to be true. And it's because of this that he isn't surprised that evening when he sees the letter—the broken seal and tattered parchment crossed with tiny, concentrated, feminine writing—sitting on the bench at the foot of Severus' bed. Instead, Albus stands in the doorway, somber and sympathetic, glancing from the note to Severus. He watches his lover as he works—hurriedly stuffing a spare set of robes and some Muggle clothes into the faded, brown leather satchel he has propped open on his bed.
"When is the funeral?" Albus asks the younger wizard gently.
Severus' movements are quick but controlled, calm and without emotion—callous, even. "Thursday," he replies simply.
- - -
Albus lowered himself, trembling, to sit down; vaguely, he became aware of the fact that he was only barely breathing, that he was still clutching the edge of his desk, that there were droplets of moisture—sweat, liquid panic—gathering along the precipice of his forehead. The images, the fear seared his mind, his soul: There he was—the tiny, dark-haired boy; he was only three years old or so, bouncing on his mother's hip. The boy was glancing down, to the blur of the stairs beneath Eileen's feet as she carried him, to the swell at her womb; she was rushing, frightened, and her grip on her son was desperate, protective. Shouting followed them. Little Severus tore his eyes from the stairs and glanced back, over her shoulder, to the originator of the noise. Tobias. He stumbled after them, his face crinkled with rage, screaming incoherently: they'd never get away, never leave him. Then, Tobias raised his foot, aimed, kicked out to Eileen's back—to push her, to hurt them. Young Severus watched, wide-eyed, fearful, as it happened, that hateful, horrible shove; he cried out—a warning to his mother, a plea to his father, but it was too late: In the next moment, they were tumbling together, mother and son and unborn baby, over the steps, down to the bottom, to crash against the wall, a mess of blood and bruises and broken bones.
Albus shivered as the scene replayed, transferred from Severus' mind to his own. "Your father… did that to you?" he asked, stunned and shaky.
"You saw," Severus replied. There was an edge to his tone, and he gave a shrug of his shoulders, annoyed: He'd tried to fend Albus off in time, to close his mind before his earliest memory surfaced, but he couldn't. Now, the old man had seen, knew. Severus didn't need the headmaster's pity—didn't want it. It was too humiliating, salt on the wounds of his past.
The headmaster sighed heavily, haunted by the horror of a memory that wasn't even his own. "And the baby…?" he pressed.
"Gone. Would have been my little sister if she'd survived," Severus replied quietly, staring down at his hands. "My mum never tried to leave again; I think she was too afraid he'd try to kill us next."
Albus looked away sadly, out the window, to the raindrops being catapulted at the glass and pane by the clouds overhead. His heart was bleeding, mourning—he felt it: It broke for Eileen, for her suffering, for her two children now limited to one; it broke for Severus' fear, for his anger, for the fact that he would no longer be able to look at his father—trust his father—the same way again; it broke for the way they were both trapped, tormented, together.
"I think we've had enough of the Occlumency lessons today, Severus, don't you?" the headmaster offered softly.
- - -
"Shall I come with you?" Albus asks. It's a genuine offer, though to be truthful he doesn't really want to go to Spinner's End any more than he suspects Severus himself does.
Briefly, the younger wizard shakes his head. "Thank you, but no," he assures him. "It will be simpler this way. And he would've preferred it like that, anyway, I expect—not that I ever cared to accommodate him." The last words are spoken bitterly, spat, as if some bile—some poison; Severus seems grateful to be rid of them.
"Yes, I suppose you're right," the headmaster concedes in thoughtful agreement.
- - -
"And this one?" Albus asked with a grin. "Where did you get this scar?" He leaned forward to push Severus' hair back from his temple, to brush his lips against the tiny line in the skin at the crest of his forehead.
"Tripped over a stone at the playground when I was nine," Severus replied. He closed his eyes at the feel of his lover's kiss against the remnants of the ancient wound—to enjoy the attention, the tenderness, the care.
"And this one?" Albus asked again, this time running a set of fingertips down the younger wizard's bare arm. Tacitly, he marveled at the beauty of this flesh—the softness of it, the smoothness of it, the slim lines of hard muscle running beneath it—then he concentrated his touch on Severus' elbow, on the pallid crag across it.
Faintly, Severus smiled against the pillow, amused by the memory returning to him at the old man's touch. "Regulus Black and I were practicing dueling—schoolboys at play," he told him. "I was the victor, actually—despite this bit of evidence to the contrary."
The headmaster chuckled, then moved closer to lightly kiss this scar as well. In the next moment, his fingers resumed their affectionate treasure hunt along Severus' body, making their way back up his arm—to the small, circular, pinkish patch he had missed on the venture downward moments earlier. "And this?"
At once, Severus' grin fell from his lips. His whole body grew tense, the relaxed posture he'd adopted as they lounged together in post-shag leisure instantly vanishing. "My father," he informed Albus darkly. "Over the years, he discovered a certain fondness for using me to extinguish his fags."
The old man's fingertips came to an abrupt halt over the scar. His own flesh grew hot, furious, fuming, at the idea of it, the horror of it: Tobias Snape burning his son, doing it for punishment, for amusement, for dominance. In the hazy candlelight, Albus' eyes flitted over the rest of Severus' body, noticing other similar markings he had missed previously, during his foray—the first of many—beneath the young man's robes barely an hour before. Only now did Albus see them all: the small spheres left behind by Tobias' Dunhills—a half dozen or so of them, some on Severus' arms, one on his leg, another on his shoulder. And there were other marks, too—long, narrow, pallid arcs across his back. Belt marks. Beatings. Abuse.
Albus saw his tears before he felt them. The clear, salty puddles dripped from his eyes before he was even aware of them; they rained on Severus' skin—on his shoulders, his back, his arms—that scarred, seared, singed flesh. Together, they cried themselves to sleep that night.
- - -
"How is Eileen?" the headmaster questions softly. "Is she all right?"
Tucking some third-year Potions essays into the satchel for grading while he's away, Severus nods. "I believe so," he says. He glances in the direction of the parchment beside him. "It's a bit hard to tell from her letter; perhaps she seemed more shocked than anything else…. Then again, I suppose we always knew he'd meet some a foul end. It was only a matter of time."
Severus pauses a moment, as if considering the various alternate scenarios by which his father's life could have come to a halt. "To be honest, I think it's the best thing that could have ever happened to her," he continues coldly, with a nonchalant shrug. "It is rather unfortunate that it didn't happen sooner, in fact."
- - -
"…Then he burned the money. He made us sit and watch as he did it—one note at a time," Severus was saying mirthlessly, hands shoved into the pockets of his coat, as they walked. They were an odd pair, he and Albus: an old, wild, white-haired wizard and a young, damaged, dark-haired one—clad in mismatched Muggle clothes and shivering in the damp cold of winter as they crossed the gray city streets—united in their similar experiences of love and self-loathing, two become one.
"He took exquisite enjoyment from watching the looks on our faces," Severus continued. He paused then to kick glumly at a pebble. "My mum had to work extra shifts the rest of the summer so I could go back to Hogwarts that autumn."
Albus placed a hand gently on Severus' sleeve. "You did not deserve your father's cruelty, Severus," he told him soothingly. "It's important that you know that."
Reluctantly, Severus nodded. "I know," he replied. "It never gets easier, though."
Then, looking up from the asphalt underfoot, Severus sighed heavily: They were nearly across the bridge now—nearly over the river, and Spinner's End was in sight; the rooftop of that shabby little house at the end of the row could be seen in the distance, a terrible beacon. He'd only be there for the day—for Christmas—and Albus was with him. Still, the prospect of seeing Tobias Snape again was a bleak one. The feeling, as Severus learned moments later, was mutual.
"Feckin' poofters," he heard the familiar growl snarl.
Still standing in the foyer, Severus pulled away from his mother's embrace: Lurking in the shadows behind her, he saw that dark and dangerous form—the hooked nose, pallor, and lanky frame—that so resembled his own. Tobias sneered at him from over Eileen Snape's shoulder, hostile, disapproving, and menacing as ever. Apparently, Severus would be unable to get through as much as the threshold without being lashed by his father's malice.
"Toby, please," Eileen whispered, begging her husband, as she followed Severus' gaze. "It's Christmas."
"Toby, please—it's Christmas," the older Snape mocked, voice high-pitched and pathetic—a vicious imitation of his wife's meeker tone.
Tears filled Eileen's eyes, and a blush colored her otherwise pale cheeks at the insult; she glanced nervously, apologetically from Severus to Albus, then back to Tobias. A storm was coming—she could tell: She could see it in Tobias' eyes, in the way he glared at Severus and Albus—and in the way Severus glared right back. She hoped she was wrong, of course; she always hoped she was wrong. But she knew better.
- - -
"What about you?"
Severus abandons fussing with the essays and looks up at the headmaster, taken aback, unprepared to answer. His dark eyes are like black marbles: glassy, reflective, hard. "Me?"
"Yes, Severus," Albus presses. "How are you feeling about this?"
It's only then that Albus sees it: The ripple in the placid surface—the slight tremble to his hand, the quiver of his lip, the shakiness in his motions as Severus lowers himself to sit on the edge of the bed—as he crumples, elbows on his knees, hands in his hair, a low, melancholic moan at his lips. At once, the headmaster is there beside him, pushing away the satchel, placing his arms around him, calming, soothing, comforting, loving.
"I feel… so relieved," Severus whispers on an exhale, his voice and breaths ragged.
- - -
It was easier than Albus had expected it to be: planting the seed, the idea, the concept. In fact, it was quite nearly too simple—so much so that Albus was left thinking that maybe Tobias was waiting all along for someone to suggest it, to recommend it, to tell him how best to accomplish it. Of course, Tobias' mind was blurry, bumbling, bombarded with booze. But still, all it took was some Scotch and subtle persuasion. No Imperius. No Confundus. No magic whatsoever, actually, much to the headmaster's relief; magic, after all, would have made it more difficult, would have plagued his conscience, would have made it murder.
"What are you doing here?" Tobias snarled when he spotted him, that loathed white hair and beard and mismatched Muggle clothes heading toward him on the bridge.
"I merely thought we could talk," Albus replied, matching the younger man's stride. "It is my hope that perhaps we can resolve some of this ill will between us."
Tobias looked at him sharply, a glare. "It is, eh?" was the growled response. "Well, I warn you: I haven't much to say to the likes of you."
Nonetheless, Tobias had hesitated—Albus saw it in his eyes. The man was not expecting kindness, logic, the promise of peace; it disarmed him a bit, made Albus' work easier. "Then I shall consider myself fortunate for even the few syllables you've already shared," he returned graciously, forcing a grin. Then, just as he had envisioned he would when planning this excursion, he paused to remove a hip flask from his pocket; removing the lid, he took a sip, noting the longing way Tobias had glanced at the flask. "Pardon my manners," Albus continued, having swallowed some of the Scotch. "May I offer you a drink? Perhaps we can toast to the spirit of benevolence."
A certain greediness flooded Tobias' face at the promise of alcohol, and although he had already been drinking—was heading home from the pub, in fact, as Albus knew, as Albus had calculated—he eagerly accepted the proffered container. Albus watched, mildly disgusted, as Tobias threw back his head, tossed back the Scotch without flourish.
"Didn't picture you for a Scotch man," he slurred, the sharp stink of alcohol wafting from him. "More like a fruited-cocktail-with-one-of-them-umbrellas kind of man."
Albus chuckled politely, despite the mild insult. "It is wonderful that even as we age there are still some surprises in life," he commented. "Such gifts help keep us young."
Tobias smirked and took another swig of Scotch as Albus, despite the difficulty of the conversation, persisted. Carefully, the headmaster monitored Tobias as he drank, as they stood together at the center of the bridge, the beep and whirl of the occasional passing car behind them, the lights of the city beside them, the fetid river below them.
"It's quite a view of the city from here," Albus said, as casually as possible, as he surveyed the clusters of light illuminating the midnight sky along either bank of the river.
"'S'all right, if you like views, I guess," Tobias grunted noncommittally, slightly swaying as he leaned against the railing, following the wizard's gaze.
"How high up do you think we are—thirty, forty foot?" The small talk—the strain, the subtle buildup, the attempt to achieve the appropriate segue—was the most delicate part, Albus knew.
Tobias shrugged; he took another sip from the flask. "Damned if I know," he replied. "More like fifty, maybe."
Nodding on the pretense of pensiveness—as if meditating on the height of the steel and asphalt, Albus glanced down, eyeing the rushing water below—the stones and swell and hints of sewage. "Certainly high enough for a man to be killed if he fell—if he slipped, or if he threw himself off," he commented conversationally.
Tobias' gaze jerked up, his eyes wide and wild and alert. For a moment, Albus regretted having spoken his mind so quickly, so un-subtly; for a moment, he wondered if he'd given himself away too quickly, spoiled his plan. But then Tobias spoke, allaying his fears.
"I knew a bloke who done himself in off this very bridge," he volunteered.
Albus feigned surprise, interest—to which Tobias nodded with authority, impressed with himself for having apparently intrigued the headmaster, the outsider, the other
"Used to work down at the factory. Last summer, he threw himself off in broad daylight—right there, by the shallows and the rocky bits," he continued, nodding toward a particularly menacing section of the river below. "Couldn't take it no more. His wife had just left him, and he'd just been caught stealing from the foreman. Stupid git."
The old wizard looked as sincere as possible. "I suppose it was for the better, then," he replied. "A fine ending for a man in such a state. Perhaps best for any man in a situation like his." He glanced at Tobias out of the corner of his eye—saw the puzzlement in the man's face, the way his eyebrows wrinkled, simultaneously perplexed and awed by Albus' statement. Seizing the opportunity presented by this interest, Albus continued.
"It would have been a quick death for him, anyway—painless if he fell just so, easy, much more noteworthy and tidy compared to what he could have had—cancer or similar," he explained. "He had control over it—he chose the time and the place. And it must have been simpler for his family, for his wife—helped them to avoid the scandal of his theft, and the grief and humiliation of a drawn-out divorce and trial. It was rather selfless of him, really, when it comes down to it—a most advantageous choice for a man with few other options."
Tobias turned back to stare out at the river, looking slightly dizzy as he, quite pale, mulled over Albus' logic. And still, the headmaster continued.
"You know, in some Asian cultures, actually, suicide is considered noble—desirable, even—in certain instances when one is in a state of disgrace," he added.
Tobias was almost there—nearly convinced. Albus could tell; he could feel the vibrations resulting from the turning of the younger man's mind. He'd have to continue to be careful, to be patient—but it wouldn't take much now, wouldn't be long.
"Personally, I always envied the way of Socrates or Seneca, myself," Albus told him, as if in confession. "There's something admirable about their deaths, their suicides forced by law because of the profundity of their intellect. If I were to have my pick of deaths, I'd choose something akin to theirs."
It had been a lie, of course; Albus could never ordinarily find it within himself to condone and encourage suicide, but when it came to Tobias Snape, he saw fit to reconsider. After all, he could think of nothing but Severus' memories that he'd seen and felt—the horror and pain and the lost baby girl; the scars that dotted his young lover's body, the scrapes and spherical burns; and the cruelty he had seen first hand—the way the man denied, devalued, and degraded his son and wife even to this very day. Tobias Snape was inhuman, a living nightmare, the Muggle equivalent to Tom Riddle.
"'Suppose you're right," Tobias admitted quietly. In his eyes was something dark, a strange vacancy, as he stared out at the waters. Unceremoniously, he took another sip of Scotch and, sensing the conclusion of their interview, offered the flask back to Albus.
"No, no," the wizard replied, shaking away the return of the alcohol. "You're welcome to keep it—please."
Tobias was still standing on the bridge, still staring down, still lost in thought and drunkenness as Albus turned to walk away moments later. As he slipped into the shadows and prepared to Disapparate, the headmaster thought he heard a splash from out on the river—the dense, watery crash of flesh breaking through the murky surface.
It would take days for the body to be found, but even then, Albus knew he had succeeded: He knew the two Snape men had been pared down to one.
- - -
Indeed, as Albus slips a hand inside Severus' robes, as he starts to kiss him down his neck and across his collarbone—that sallow, soft, sweet skin—he is relieved as well: With Tobias gone, he and Severus will be more at peace now, safe from the memories, the suffering, the fury—the ongoing rejection and humiliation. There will be no more risk of bruises and battles of the will, of screaming and scars.
And although he's determined that Severus will never know the role his lover has played in his father's death, Albus does. He knows the depth of the empathy, the affection, and the selflessness with which he's brought himself to come so close to killing. What's more, he knows that it's happened only once before: Last time he had fallen in love, Ariana had died; this time, Tobias. Comparatively, the latter is a much less regretted loss, of course, but that doesn't diminish its significance to Albus. After all, there's a close connection between death and love. It can be seen in history, literature, and religion—in Helen of Troy, Romeo and Juliet, and Jesus…. The dual inevitabilities—fatality and passion—entwine, become one; so too have he and Severus.
Unavoidably. Inescapably. Predictably.
A/N: The title should (crosses fingers) be Latin for "that the two may be one."