Disclaimer: Not mine
Riding the Tail of the Dragon
Muggle boys used the Roller Coaster near Spinners End as some sort of rite of passage into manhood. They would slick back their hair, roll up the sleeves on their white tees, and stride right up to the queue. Plunking down their money, they would happily buy their perceived chance to die. The screaming and shuddering cart, hurling around the far loop, they said, made you look death in the eye and hear the dragon's roar. As the sea rushed up to meet them and the track seemed to disappear under them, they knew it to be true. The dragon lived.
They rushed to sit in the fist cart, wanting to control the head, not wanting to ride in the tail, whipped at another's will. They would let go of the metal restraining bar as they approached the last loop, flinging up their arms as the loop took their breath. They could believe themselves to be as brave as those that wore a red cross on their chests and carried swords in their hands.
Then the slow cranking and lurching to the top started again, each creak of the gears chanting 'earth bound, earth bound'. At the very peak, at the summit, the plunge began again. The small flimsy cart dropped so swiftly each boy knew he would die, or in the trying, would see Death's smile and find his manhood in the moment.
Severus had once ridden on the old wooden roller coaster down near Spinners End. Hopping on the train with some other neighbourhood boys, he had taken the thirty-minute ride to the park, trying to fit in and be one of the gang. Every seaside park had a coaster back then, back when he was a child. They, the coasters, seemed old even then. Even ten long years ago, ten years and a lifetime ago, they had seemed old to him.
He had ridden the roller coaster but had found no fear in it. The rites of passage he took came only three short years later. His walk into manhood occurred elsewhere, wearing a black robe and half-silver mask. He was led to a grassy meadow, while the evenings mist still showed, forced to his knees, stripped of his shirt and flogged. This was in lieu of plunking his money down. His ticket had been burned into his flesh, enabling him to use it over and over again. His ticket was not for a mere one-time use at a seaside park.
He walked thru the rubble of what had been the Potter's house and saw instead the broken spines of the coaster the year the storm had washed it away. The storm hit at high tide, pushing great swells of salt water over the foundation, twisting the structure and finding its weakness, as the Dark Lord had found the weakness in the Potters, and brought it crashing down in a graceful ballet of twisted metal and splintered wood.
Severus had missed the sight of the broken monster as it lay on the beach, as he was away at school when the great beast made of rotting wood fell. He had not taken the thirty-minute train ride to see the destruction with the rest of Spinners End. Now he picked his way over the broken spines of her house and thought that this must have been how it looked. Broken wooden beams and twisted metal, and small unidentifiable scarps of human existence littered the ground, as the ground must have been littered at the seaside park.
He had not felt the sudden drop of the Roller Coaster in such a long time that he had forgotten how it made his stomach lurch and the air leave his lungs. Walking through the rubble, he felt it again, and was almost relieved to find a memory that could take him away from here. The sudden quickening of insides riding up, of his breath not filling his lungs, the sound of a seashell held too long to his ear, the smell of her hair as she leaned into his shoulder, and the rush of adrenalin filled him again.
Now almost a full three months later he sat, drank, and thought about what he had lost that night, as he had thought of it every night since. He fell asleep in his chair, as the last of the whiskey ran in his loops of veins as he heard the cart shuddering and its steal chains drag it up hill. He heard the chat of 'earth bound, earth bound' again fill his ears.
His dreams were disjointed and unplaced in time. There was nothing to fear but the horror he felt, and the voice telling him "no harm, no harm" as the cart climbed higher. He heard the chant, as the gears grew larger and pulled harder all the while making him want to look over his shoulder, but he knew he could not without seeing the dragon.
Then his dream turned and crackled green, and bathed in light. Two babies lie alone in a grassy misty field while walking over the horizon two witches turned to each other, held hands and walked away as the babies screamed alone in the seventh month. The Dark Lord walked by and smiled at him as the white mist cleared and a third child floated by in a river of red. He heard a voice say, 'This is the child she has flushed away,' and puzzled not to the why, but to the whom.
Severus sat up suddenly, trying to stand as he gasped for air. Falling forward, onto his knees, he vomited out whiskey and hope. For the first time in his memory, he felt tears on his cheeks that did not fall with his father's fists, and wrapping his arms around his waist, he rocked himself back to a near sleep on his knees, seeing her on the back of his eyelids and feeling her breath on his face.