Disclaimer: I own no Harry Potter characters, nor do I own any of the lyrics I use.
A/N: This story ignores the concept of horcruxes, and is not DH-compliant... so it's AU. I love my beta. Much thanks to Portishead for being the soundtrack to this story.
Prologue: "Western Eyes"
Even from the dark and hostile environment enclosed within the cool, damp walls, Severus Snape was still able to hear the joyous celebration that was occurring many feet above him. He would have contemplated the idea of joining in the merriment, if there were no risks involved. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
It was no matter, anyway. He hated crowds and frivolous parties. And he didn't arrive to Hogwarts for the feast. In fact, he hadn't even considered that anyone would be inside the castle, save for a few staff members. It was still winter vacation after all, and Minerva most likely had sent all students home due to the recent events, he thought.
But after making his way up the main steps, relieved to see that the ancient wards still allowed him to enter, Severus had heard music coming from the Great Hall. Cautiously, he had peered his head inside, and found many celebrants gathered for a feast. He recognized Daily Prophet journalists, politicians, renowned wizards and witches, and several members belonging to the Order of the Phoenix. The two long tables in the center were gone to accommodate dancing couples. Others were walking to and fro, laughing loudly, a drink in their hands. The rest of the party-gatherers were off to the sides, sitting in small, round tables and talking to one another. Some were grabbing food from silver plates that were floating throughout the Hall.
Everyone was smiling and laughing, seemingly having a marvelous time. However, Snape's attention turned to a morose-looking Harry Potter, who was leaning against a corner of a wall and eyeing the crowd, green eyes glinting with severity. The look on the boy's face was peculiar and looked foreign on his features.
Then again, how was Potter supposed to look after everything that had happened?
He continued staring until he thought he met Harry's gaze with his own. Then, deciding it would be most foolish to remain where he could be seen, Severus left the Hall to continue the "festivities" in the comfort of his own private chambers down in the dungeons.
He entered his rooms and muttered an incantation. A fire immediately burst and crackled in his fireplace, the only light in his private rooms. The flames flickered and danced, creating dark shadows across his walls and furniture. The light was dim, but Severus found comfort in the darkness.
He approached a large cabinet with windowed panels in the back of the living room, and opened it to reveal a long bottle of scotch. Severus thought it perfect for the rough night he was certain to endure. He opened it with ease, grabbed a wine glass off of a nook, and poured. He left the bottle open -- he would need more of it in due time -- and advanced to his large armchair in front of the fireplace, spelling his antique record player on as he walked. A woman's voice immediately began crooning.
Severus sat down, and waited.
The war was over. The Light had won. The entire wizarding world could breathe easily now because impending doom had vanished with just a stream of yellow light. Truly, these were days to remember.
At least, that was what Snape kept repeating to himself. However, being a Death-Eater (a former one, actually) and one of few remaining alive, there was still another impending doom that he was to worry about.
It would be kind if Fate allowed him a good night's sleep before the Ministry officials invaded his chambers and arrested him. It would be generous if he was quickly convicted of murder and avoided the tedious questioning by the Wizengamot. It would be fortunate if he received the Dementor's Kiss, rather than live a long and grueling life in the dingy cells of Azkaban, much like his former friend, Malfoy.
However, luck was never on his side.
If he knew his personal war would end this way, he would have finished it years ago. The man knew, though, that negative thoughts like these were pointless, so he focused on something else. He stared at the fire, the coal eyes void of emotion. Watched the fire dance, and dance, and dance. Yellow merging with orange, merging with white, merging, and dancing. Inferno waltz. He held the wine glass in his hand and brought it to his thin lips, feeling the liquid run and slide down his throat, though he didn't taste it -- There was no time for such pleasantries.
"With western eyes and serpent's breath," the woman sang in such a melancholic tone, perfect and fitting for his life. "We lay our own conscience to rest..." Another long sip, hardly feeling the burn this time.
A knock echoed in his living room, and for a moment, Snape felt a mild sense of apprehension. He quickly dismissed it. He chose his fate, and now, he had to face the consequences, however mortal they may be. He rose and advanced toward the door, unaware that he was holding his breath.
He opened the door, and snorted at the anti-climactic turn of events. "Potter."
"Sir." The green eyes were filled with… something that Severus could not exactly pinpoint. For a moment, he thought Potter might hex him, but he realized the boy didn't have his wand in his hand. Curious.
"I... I tried to… but they.. They'll be here in... Sorry." His gaze fell to his shoes, but rose back to meet his eyes. "Can I come in?"
The man was taken aback, but recovered instantly. "I would think your presence is needed elsewhere in this castle."
He had no will to argue.
"For what?" Severus asked from his armchair, still staring, fire still dancing. He took another sip of his scotch. He had offered some to Harry, for good measure, but he declined.
"Saving me. When I was cornered by all the Death-Eaters." The sincerity was clear in his voice. Still, the man refused to answer. A cold tension hung over their heads.
"Maybe they won't even come here," Potter suggested quietly after a moment, almost as if to reassure himself.
Snape merely snorted. "I've been to Spinner's End. The aurors destroyed most of my possessions. I've also no doubt that they're monitoring my wand." Harry flinched, but he continued. "Now that I'm at Hogwarts, they will know for sure that I've nowhere else to go."
Harry was cut off by Snape's cough, implying that he did not want to get into it. The younger man conceded, and more thick tension followed. Snape clenched his fists, growing furious at the ongoing silence. He expected a furious tantrum, a duel, an attack, anything. Not feigned civility. This entire act was asinine, and he was going to put a stop to it. "Why are you here, Potter?"
"I saw Dumbledore's memories," he murmured.
Snape gritted his teeth, finally turning to look at the boy before him. "Forget them."
Snape rose then, black eyes vibrant with rage. It finally occurred to him that he was spending his last night of freedom with Harry Potter, the very reason why his life was being taken away in the first place. And the boy had just barged in here... for what? Gratitude? Appreciation? How dare he. How dare Potter steal his last moments. "Forget them," he repeated, evident loathing and frustration in every syllable he spoke. He stood there, chest heaving and face pale, watching him, watching Potter in his seat, who was staring back with that pained something in his eyes.
The fire and shadows twirled between them.
"I won't let them take you, sir." It was said with such conviction and force that Severus almost believed it himself. "You've saved my life so many times..." He sighed and got up from the couch. He closed the distance and raised his chin to stare into the black. "And I… It's time I did the same."
The world seemed to stop turning. Everything froze, except the fire and the various emotions etched in their pupils.
"With western eyes, and serpent's breath..."
The door was suddenly blasted open, startling both men. A group of aurors barged in, and soon, six wands were being pointed at Severus. "Official orders," the biggest among the group shouted, cockney accent thick. "We've come to arrest Mr. Severus Snape." The auror grinned almost viciously.
Harry blanched at the words and shifted his eyes from his former professor to the group. "On what charges?" he asked weakly.
"Murder and treason," the auror responded. He took a few steps forward and lowered his wand involuntarily as he continued. "We received a report—" The big man then realized with whom he was speaking to, and his eyes widened. "Mr. Potter, it is an honor," he said, bowing low. "No one told us you were personally arresting 'im yourself!"
"No one's getting arrested!" Harry exclaimed. Snape noticed two aurors glancing at each other nervously. The big auror took a few more steps towards Harry and scratched his head. "Er, Mr. Potter, sir…"
Harry continued before the man could. "Look, I... I know what you're thinking, but you see... He's not really a Death-Eater, and I can prove to you that he was on the Light's side if you ju--"
"Potter. Stop. I will go willingly." It was said so quietly that Harry barely caught it.
"No, sir, trust me, I ca--"
A terse shake of the head. "It is futile."
"'A course it is," the auror said, and he swished his wand, conjuring a long, white thread of magic. Severus brought his hands forward and the thread spun itself tightly around the man's wrists.
"Where are you taking him?" Harry demanded to know as he watched three aurors walk behind Snape, trapping him in a circle. "To Azkaban, of course," a scrawny auror answered. Another wizard cracked a smile at the response.
Snape was unaffected. He merely closed his eyes, and followed behind the aurors in front of him. If he played his cards right, the Dementor's Kiss would only be a few hours away...
"I won't let this happen," he heard Potter say, the young man's words ringing and spinning in his mind, echoing and echoing before finally settling in the back of his head.
Hope was for Gryffindors, after all.
Harry watched the group disappear from the room. As soon as he was alone, he grunted and kicked the foot of the armchair. "Shit," he exhaled, as he slid a hand through his hair. He plopped down on Snape's chair, and rubbed his face with his hands, trying to see what he was going to do next. Snape had no faith in him, that was certain, but the man didn't deserve this. The memories he witnessed proved that. He would not die. He refused to let the man die… but just how would he stop this?
Harry pondered his next moves while he stared into the fire, suddenly realizing that music was playing in the room.
"They lay their own conscience to rest," the woman sang, "but then they lie, and then they dare to be hidden heroes, candidly…"
The fire was almost hypnotizing, beckoning and calling. Yellow-orange siren. Harry sighed again.
"Yes, I'm breaking at the scenes, just like you…"
Breaking from the trance, Harry stood and headed towards the door. He turned around and glanced at the dancing flames once more.
He spelled it off and promptly left the room.